Having joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill after World War Two at the age of 27, Walter Netsch was promoted to become a partner at the age of 31. Netsch entered the firm during what was arguably its defining era, when the reputation of Gordon Bunshaft and the image of a corporate-driven, teamwork-minded made SOM one of the most recognizable practices in the US. He was also, at the age of just 34, responsible for one of SOM’s most recognizable projects of the decade, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and its striking geometric chapel.
To honor what would have been Netsch’s 95th birthday, SOM recently republished an interview between Netsch and architecture theorist and writer Detlef Mertins, which had originally been published in 2001 in SOM Journal 1. In the following extract from this interview, Netsch discusses the story of how he developed the design, and what it was like to participate in one of America’s most influential practices among a host of strong characters.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) has been chosen to design a new teaching and learning facility for Barnard College – Columbia University’s world-renowned liberal arts college for women. The selection committee chose SOM after deeming them the best candidate in three categories: “a history of creative and innovative architecture,” a proven recorded on similar academic projects, and “an internal commitment to woman’s leadership reflected by women holding key roles in the firm.”
Originally posted under the title “Well-Oiled Machine” on Metropolis Magazine, this fascinating article by Ian Volner profiles the international behemoth that is SOM, exploring how the practice has remained so prominent – and relevant – after 78 years, and what it is that stylistically unites a practice spread across five continents with more than 10,000 buildings to their name.
Frank Lloyd Wright called them the “Three Blind Mies.” Louis Skidmore, Nathaniel Owings, and John O. Merrill were the architectural troika whose namesake firm—founded in Chicago in the mid-1930s—became something like the Julia Child of postwar design, delivering European sophistication to middle America at midcentury. Through hundreds of buildings in cities all across the country (and, later, around the world) the office turned the stringent aesthetic of German master builder Ludwig Mies van der Rohe into an architectural metonym for big business. Whether you look at rows of sleek glass skyscrapers and see grace and economy, or only the “thousand blind windows” of Allen Ginsberg’s monstrous “Moloch,” it’s no stretch to say that you have Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to thank for them.
More on SOM’s huge influence after the break
Quickly rising on the corner of 14th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan, this new, multipurpose facility will soon become the “heart” of The New School – an avant-garde university in New York City. The University Center, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), combines all aspects of a traditional campus into a single, 16-story building, offering 200,000 square feet of academic space on the first seven floors and 150,000 square feet for a 600-bed dormitory on the levels above.
The brass-and-glass structure, which is the largest construction project in the university’s 91-year history in Greenwich Village, is scheduled for completion in 2014.
In progress images and more information after the break.
The GSA has announced that Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill have been selected as the architects of the new Los Angeles Federal Courthouse, which will house the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, and the U.S. Marshals Service. The architects beat out 3 other shortlisted teams to win the $318 million project.
According to the GSA, ”The new 550,000-square-foot building will be a sustainable, cost-effective, state-of-the-art court facility that includes security upgrades that are not available in the current 312 North Spring Street courthouse.”
The site, located at 107 South Broadway (down the street from Morphosis’ Caltrans building, LA’s City Hall, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall) has been dormant since 2007; although a $1.1 billion design by Perkins + Will was selected soon after, it was abandoned when Congress slashed the GSA’s construction budget. The GSA considers the approval of the new redevelopment plan a “major milestone.”
More info and images, after the break…
Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) has started construction on their 1.4 million-square-foot master plan for The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Demolition will commence on the existing parking garage at the south end of the hospital complex in order to clear the way for the new Orthopedic and Spine Center (OSC). The contemporary 332,000 square-foot building draws on the predominantly red brick character of the existing buildings and surrounding historic Mt. Auburn neighborhood, while providing a new public face on the south side of the hospital.
SOM strives to achieve LEED certification after completion in mid-2015. Continue after the break to learn more.
A triple height entrance lobby will welcome visitors to a world-class hotel, two restaurants, three sky gardens and a 248 unit residential tower, all with stunning views over Olympic Park. These are some of the key features offered in the newly unveiled plan for the 42-storey Manhattan Loft Gardens in London, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). It is planned to be built near the Stratford International Station – the gateway to the 2012 London Olympics. Completion is scheduled for 2014.
Continue after the break to learn more.
SOM’s new 64-storey Diagonal Tower to be located in the developing commercial and mixed-use Yongsan International Business District in the heart of Seoul, South Korea, exudes a modern take on structural expressionism. The tower progressively addresses the critical issues associated with skyscraper design in an iconic and refined manner. From structural and energy efficiency to reduced construction costs that the tower must meet, SOM have strove to integrate these aspects holistically into the overall aesthetics. More details after the break.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) has shared with us some updated images of the new John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. As you may remember, back in November we reported the official ribbon cutting of the 625,000-square-foot facility. With a primary focus on increasing social interaction throughout the facility while effectively satisfying the needs of an entire campus within a single building, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice is a reflection of the contemporary standards for educational facilities.
Continue after the break to view more images.
Today, Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) broke ground on yet another supertall building in China. The 96-story-tall CTF Tianjin Tower is subtly defined by undulating curves that shape its three programmatic elements while presenting a bold monolithic presence on the TEDA district skyline outside Tianjin. The 1,740-feet (530-meter) tall tower houses offices, 300 service apartments and a 350-room, 5-star hotel beneath its boldly arched top.
According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), the CTF Tianjin Tower will be the fourteenth tallest skyscraper built by 2020. Continue reading for more.
Today, Cornell University has announced their selection of Thom Mayne and Morphosis to design the first academic building for the CornellNYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island. Mayor Michael Bloomberg awarded the Roosevelt Island campus project to Cornell mid-December of last year. With plans to achieve net-zero, the campus is striving to become the new modern prototype for learning spaces worldwide.
“This project represents an extraordinary opportunity to explore the intersection of three territories: environmental performance, rethinking the academic workspace and the unique urban condition of Roosevelt Island,” Mayne said, as reported by Cornell University. “This nexus offers tremendous opportunities not only for CornellNYC Tech, but also for New York City.”
Continue reading for more.
With the installation of a girder on the 100th floor, the One World Trade Center has become the tallest building in New York. Currently standing at 1,271 feet (387m) tall, the “Freedom Tower” has surpassed the 1,250 foot Empire State Building. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the One World Trade Center will become the tallest building in the US and the third tallest in the world upon completion.
Continue after the break for more.
Saif Bader Al Qubaisi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Health Services (SEHA), has unveiled plans for the new three-million-square-foot, 838-bed Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC). The new complex, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) in a joint venture with ICME and Tilke, will replace the existing Sheikh Khalifa Medical City and provide expanded medical, pediatric, and trauma care for the residents of Abu Dhabi.
Mustafa K. Abadan, Design Partner for the project, says “The new Sheikh Khalifa Medical City balances the technical demands of a world-class medical center with the psychological well being of its visitors. The design allows for the flexible integration of next generation medical technologies, while the incorporation of amenities, such as trees and hanging gardens coupled with restaurants and retail, provides tranquility, relief and a sense of normalcy for patients and their families.”
Continue reading for more images and the architect’s description.
After remaining on hold since 2005, the General Services Administration (GSA) has reinstated plans to construct a new U.S. Courthouse in downtown LA. The 3.7 acre dirt lot at 107 South Broadway, down the street from Morphosis’ Caltrans building, LA’s City Hall, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, has remained dormant since 2007; shortly after the GSA abandoned Perkins + Will’s estimated $1.1 billion conceptual design due to rising costs. Now, plans for the courthouse have been scaled back and the GSA has just released the shortlisted teams competing of the project. Continue reading after the break to see who made the cut.
Corgan & SOM Team Wins GSA Design Competition for the Social Security Administration National Support Center
The General Services Administration (GSA) has awarded Corgan Associates, Inc., and its design partner, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) the design of the new Social Security Administration (SSA) National Support Center (NSC) as part of the Hensel Phelps Design-Build team. Located in Northeast Maryland, the new 280,000 ft2 office and data center will replace the existing outdated National Computer Center with a high-performance sustainable design that is expected to achieve LEED® GOLD Certification from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Continue reading for more information.
Today the world celebrates its most precious resource: water. Countries world-wide suffer from water shortages so extreme that they cannot produce enough food to support their basic needs. In an effort to protect the World’s largest source of surface fresh water, the City Design Practice of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is gaining international support in their pro bono pursuit to create a 100-year vision that will environmentally protect and economically revitalize the entire U.S. and Canada Great Lakes region, a vision known as The Great Lakes Century.
“The availability and quality of fresh water to sustain a radically urbanizing world is unquestionably a core issue of our time and requires holistic environmental thinking at an unprecedented scale,” said Philip Enquist, SOM partner in charge of urban design worldwide.
Continue reading for more information on this important cause.