Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 12/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
The first interiors partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to have started at the firm as an intern, Stephen Apking actually embarked on his career much earlier than that. As a child in Ohio in the early 1960's, he loved to build forts and camps in the woods behind his house.
Architecture was the thrust of his undergraduate studies at the University of Cincinnati, but he was equally intrigued by all the design disciplines. "Architecture, planning, interiors, graphics, fashion—they were all under one roof at Cincinnati," recalls Apking. "It was thrilling."
Through Cincinnati's undergraduate program—a cooperative that allowed Apking to alternate between studies and work—he found that first internship, in the interiors group at SOM in Chicago. The experience proved pivotal. While working there, he discovered how multidisciplinary SOM in particular and interiors in general could be and decided to focus on that field going forward. "Interiors have an enormous influence on buildings, furniture, and art," he says.
After completing other internships—at SOM offices in Houston and New York—and earning his master's in architectural history from the University of Virginia, Apking returned to SOM's New York office full-time, working on interiors for financial and corporate institutions such as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Major projects for Fortune 500s have continued to line up at his doorstep: Goldman Sachs Group, UBS, Morgan Stanley. He has ' also handled projects in hospitality, including the Hilton Kuwait Resort, and government, including the new NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Seeking out clients that challenge Apking to address the difficult concepts of technology 'and rebranding allows him to utilize the various disciplines he studied. One such job, the 25,000-square-foot prototype trading environment for the New York Stock Exchange, done in 2000, required him to look at technology, data and power delivery, behavior, and acoustics.
Apking credits some of his success to SOM mentor architects Charles Pfister and Patrick McConnell. Another secret to his success? Says Apking, "A love and passion for the work."