Change is in the Air
C.C. Sullivan -- Interior Design, 11/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Known for big corporate and institutional commissions, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has recently—and aggressively—moved to dispel those industry generalizations. The firm's office buildings and airports might once have conjured up images of a sophisticated sameness. It's a different story today. SOM's portfolio displays an arresting variety of types and expressions.
In classic SOM fashion, internal partnerships are driving the change. Novel projects overseas, for example, merge structure and sculpture in ways unthinkable during the Sears Tower era. In-house research has spawned proprietary advances in materials and finishes, and the interiors practice as a whole has flourished, leading the firm deeper into hospitality and residential territory. From the infinity mirrors of New York's Skyscraper Museum to the rainbow gradients of Maryland's U.S. Census Bureau, SOM packs in more invention per square foot than ever before.
The mega-name mega-projects still roll in, of course. In New York, buildings have started to rise at Ground Zero. In Chicago, it's the Trump International Hotel & Tower—the hugest. Abroad, the soaring mixed-use Burj Dubai is planned as the world's tallest.
A string of unexpected collaborations has been making headlines, too. For Greenwich Academy in Connecticut, artist James Turrell joined Roger Duffy of SOM's "education lab" to design a library with plenty of glass and a sod roof. Interiors partner Stephen Apking joined forces with technology firm Razorfish to produce PDA-friendly accessories. At the urban scale, SOM and Renzo Piano Building Workshop master-planned a proposed New York campus expansion for Columbia University.
From towers of power to fine-grained details, SOM's range is proof of a real renaissance.