Key projects by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)
Seth Powers

Key recent projects by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)

26 Jun 2024  •  News  •  By Surabhi Patil

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is a global group of architects, engineers, designers, and planners spanning a legacy of more than eighty years. Founded in 1936 by Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings and later joined by John Merrill in 1939, the firm’s philosophy is rooted in cross-disciplinary collaboration across architecture, planning, design, and construction. SOM has designed some of the most iconic feats in modern architecture and engineering, including Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, and Lever House, an International Style landmark in New York City.

Over the years, the firm has broadened its expertise to include urban planning, sustainable engineering, and ecology, allowing it to address some of the most pressing challenges faced by cities and regions with a holistic design process.

With its interdisciplinary and structurally innovative approach, SOM has secured seventh place in Archello's 100 best architecture firms in the world.

Here are five key recent projects that define the practice: 

 

 

photo_credit Lucas Blair Simpson © SOM
Lucas Blair Simpson © SOM

1. Kansas City International Airport New Terminal

SOM transformed the existing terminal in Kansas City, built in 1972, into an inclusive and accessible structure comprising airline amenities, gates, and concourses housed under a large wooden canopy.

With a glass and aluminum exterior, structurally expressive Y-columns, and a broad overhang providing shade, the structure stands as a light-filled space offering an inviting experience. The interiors feature warm elements, such as marble terrazzo flooring and a hemlock ceiling. To retain the memories of the historic structure, multiple pieces of vibrant, locally designed mosaics, cut and salvaged from the old terminal, have been laid out throughout the floors of the new concourses.

 

 

photo_credit Dave Burk
Dave Burk

2. 800 Fulton Market

800 Fulton Market is a structurally striking mixed-use building in one of Chicago's most dynamic neighborhoods. Defined by the X-braced frames marking the west and east elevations, the 19-story building is engineered to sustain extreme seasonal variations. The building connects the high-density commercial zone to the north to the low-rise Fulton Market Street through a series of landscaped terraces, breaking the monotony of the facade to be sensitive to the rhythm and scale of the historic district. The distinct structural system of external braces, coupled with the offset cantilevered core made of glass, allows expansive, open floor plans and flexible workspaces flooded with natural light.

 

 

photo_credit Seth Powers
Seth Powers

3. Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank Headquarters

Located in one of Shenzhen's prime business districts, the 158-meter-tall, 33-story Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank Headquarters features an elaborate diagrid exoskeleton wrapped around its envelope. This structural design serves two functions - it provides an effective solar shading system that reduces solar heat gain and minimizes glare in the workspaces. Additionally, the column-free plan enables flexibility in office layouts. Two vertical atria designed as the structure's lungs span the entire height and feature automated louvers and mechanized window vents that allow the structure to “breathe”.

 

 

photo_credit Dave Burk © SOM
Dave Burk © SOM

4. Two Manhattan West

Two Manhattan West marks the final development stage of the 7-million-square-foot mixed-use neighborhood developed by Brookfield Properties with a master plan by SOM to revitalize the underutilized area. Built on a challenging site over active railway lines, the tower is supported by a central core, of which only half could reach solid ground. An array of mega-columns wrap the perimeter of the building and visually reveal the building's complex structural system.
 

 

photo_credit Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall
Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall

5. Kempegowda International Airport

Drawing inspiration from Bengaluru's image as a "garden city", terminal 2 of Kempegowda International Airport is a radical take on a verdant, contemporary transit hub. The 255,000 square meters terminal is distinguished by its cross-laid engineered bamboo structure as well as the use of other locally sourced materials like brown granite, red bricks, and traditionally woven rattan. As the visitors traverse from the transit hub to the terminal entrance to the gates, they come across a series of distinct spaces dotted with landscaped gardens, water features, green walls, and hanging gardens, making the airport experience memorable.