Skidmore Owings & Merrill prefers a skyline view. One of the world's largest architectural and engineering firms, Skidmore Owings & Merrill (or SOM) has earned its fame with innovative modernist designs and such high-profile projects as the John Hancock Building and Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). Its portfolio of services includes graphics, interior design, and urban design and planning. Transportation planning, infrastructure planning, environmental engineering, and geotechnical engineering are part of its structural and civil engineering offerings. The firm, which has completed projects in more than 40 countries, has offices in several major metropolitan US cities and in Europe and Asia.
SOM has been responsible for the look of some of the world's tallest buildings. Although it earned its reputation with its signature high-rises, the firm also takes on institutional projects such as airports, convention centers, office buildings, and schools. In addition, it performs interior design work and renovation projects for older buildings. One of its most notable renovations was to the Smithsonian.
The company has designed headquarters in New York City for such blue-chip firms as Bear Stearns, Random House, and Time Warner. The group also was involved in designing the 1,776-ft.-tall One World Trade Center tower at the site of the former World Trade Center. The National Museum of the US Army in Fairfax County, Virginia, is also a SOM creation.
The firm designed the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building at some 2,700 ft., in the United Arab Emirates. Similarly, SOM planned Europe's tallest block of flats -- two towers linked together and rising containing more than 700 apartments -- in London's Docklands.
Sustainable design is a big part of the firm's offerings. It designed an office building in France that will be built to generate energy and have no carbon emissions. SOM also devised the eco-friendly master plans for an entire island off the coast of China.
SOM is calling for a 100-year plan for the Great lakes and St. Lawrence River Region. The plan would improve water quality and the economies of the cities in the area.
One of the stalwarts of modernist design, SOM has used its reputation for innovation to put its stamp on cities throughout Asia (though some critics say that it has lost its creative distinction to become the IBM of architectural firms). SOM leaders defend their style as innovative but not trendy. – less