How Skidmore, Owings and Merrill Have Shaped the New York Skyline
The New York skyline is one of the most famous in the world, full of towering structures and innovative architectural designs. Several of these buildings are the work of the architects at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM). While you can find SOM buildings springing up on several continents, some of the firm’s finest work has come from the city where they have been based since the 1930s.
SOM was founded in Chicago in 1936 by Skidmore and Owings (Merrill would join three years later) before a second office opened in New York in 1937. The firm has since become one of the most desirable names in the field of architecture. London, Paris and Tokyo are all homes to SOM buildings, while perhaps their most remarkable achievement is the imposing Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Like New York, Dubai is renowned for its stunning skyline.
The Burj Khalifa is the crowning jewel; not only is it currently the world’s tallest skyscraper, but the neo-futuristic design made by SOM and the architect Adrian Smith gives the Burj Khalifa the appearance of a desert lily rising out of the landscape. SOM have designed many buildings in New York that could rival the Dubai tower for aesthetic appeal. Here is a brief celebration of some of SOM’s finest contributions to the New York skyline.
One World Trade Center
While it may not reach quite as high as the Burj Khalifa, the One World Trade Center is not exactly short. The One WTC is the highest building anywhere in the United States and the seventh-tallest in the world with its height of 541.3 meters. Whether it’s your first time seeing the One WTC or your thousandth, the architecture never gets any less impressive.
The triangular tower has glass surfaces that shimmer in the light, with the One WTC providing a different viewing experience for every time and weather combination. There’s a hint of the Empire State Building about it, but the One WTC has a clear identity of its own. Finished in 2014, SOM have created something that will be one of the definitive features of the Manhattan skyline for decades.
From one of SOM’s more recent works to one of its oldest, Lever House was completed in 1952 and marked SOM’s entrance at the top tier of American architecture. This building can be found in Midtown Manhattan and may look relatively unremarkable in comparison to more modern constructions, but the story of Lever House makes this a building worth noticing.
The corporate building became one of the first glass-walled office buildings in the country that adopted the International Style of architecture, a European school of design that emphasizes volume over mass and relies heavily on flat glass surfaces. With Lever House, SOM set the tone for future construction on Park Avenue in Midtown.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
SOM are not just all about designing towering structures for corporate use. The architects stepped up to the plate when the John Jay College of Criminal Justice needed to expand to cater for an increase in student applications.
A 14-storey tower is juxtaposed against a landscaped terrace. The latter is reminiscent of a typical college campus, but the tower and its captivating staggered glass panels remind students that they are very much in the heart of one of the world’s busiest cities. Vertical fins cover all sides of the building, so visitors approaching the college from any direction are liable to experience different visual effects.
SOM will continue to mark their mark on the New York skyline, with Disney priming themselves to move into their new headquarters on Hudson Square at some point later this decade. If Disney come calling for your services, you can be pretty confident that you’re a major player in your field. SOM can be absolutely certain that they are one of the most influential firms in global architecture.
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