American architect Gyo Obata, FAIA, co-founder of renowned architecture firm HOK, has passed away on March 8 at the age of 99. The news was announced by the office through a statement, honoring the architect's legacy and highlighting his holistic approach which "helped drive HOK’s ongoing expansion into new specialty practices, market sectors and geographic regions".
Born in February 28, 1923 in San Francisco, California, Obata lived and worked in St. Louis, Missouri. He was almost forcibly relocated to concentration camps during the Second World War due to his Japanese heritage, but managed to avoid that by studying architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, the only university in the country willing to accept Japanese nationals at that time. He obtained a master's degree in architecture and urban design in 1946, and worked as an architect at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill from 1947 to 1951. In 1955, the architect, along with George Hellmuth and George Kassabaum founded the architecture firm Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, legally known now as HOK Group, Inc.
Obata believed that each project must be approached without any set assumptions, and designed to serve the needs, values, and aspirations of the community it serves. During the ideation phase of any project, the architect paid close attention to the needs expressed by clients, instead of relying on his own ideologies, letting their statements guide the design of a building. His work is characterized by a significant use of materials, harmony with nature, and sustainable design significance.
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Gyo embodied everything that’s honorable about the architectural profession. Instead of designing for the fashions of the times or to make a personal statement, Gyo designed to improve lives. He was a kind, thoughtful man who developed warm, personal relationships with his colleagues and clients. People believed in him, which is an essential part of turning drawings into buildings. -- Bill Valentine, FAIA, HOK’s chairman emeritus.
Formerly known as Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum, HOK is a St. Louis-based design, architecture, engineering, and urban design firm. Explore some of HOK and Gyo Obata's most iconic architecture projects: