A budding architectural designer finds the chance to work on two New York City icons.

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Photo courtesy Adede Amenyah

Since joining SOM’s New York office just over two years ago, Adede Amenyah has worked on the design and renovation of two of the city’s most iconic and storied buildings — the historic Farley Post Office (soon to open as Moynihan Train Hall) and the reimagined Waldorf Astoria. That’s just the beginning of her ongoing architectural education. In the next profile in our Spotlight series, Adede tells us why every day on the job offers a new chance to learn.

In my last year of architecture school, I took a studio course called “Super-Tall” led by Nicole Dosso, who at the time was a director at SOM. Most of my studies up until then were very conceptual and abstract — Nicole’s studio was very much grounded in the real world. She brought in consultants who talked us through everything you need to consider when designing super-tall buildings, from facades and structural engineering to wind performance studies. It was the first opportunity I had to do technical design work, to understand the entire process of how you go from an initial concept to a physical structure. …


Two of our designers have big ideas about reviving mid-century landmarks.

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SOM replaced Lever House’s original curtain wall in 2001 with a state-of-the-art facade that set a new precedent for the preservation of 20th-century architecture. (Photos © Ezra Stoller | ESTO and © Florian Holzherr)

Earlier this year, two members of our New York team contributed an article to Architecture Philosophy, the journal of the International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture (ISPA). In the piece, Frank Mahan and Van Kluytenaar reflect on SOM’s work preserving, renovating, and adapting the firm’s own iconic mid-century projects. The practice of adaptive reuse, it turns out, raises a number of thorny questions: What does it mean to modify an existing building to serve in the present? And what, exactly, confers a building’s historic value?

Nearly 20 years ago, SOM took on the task to replace and restore Lever House’s curtain wall — a delicate operation that required substituting the original materials of the 1952 building, New York City’s first modernist landmark. The seamless integration of a new state-of-the-art facade set a precedent for the preservation of 20th-century architecture. What philosophies have emerged since, and how have they been applied to other buildings? …


Designers, builders, and government must work toward the same goal — our lives depend on it.

by Kent Jackson

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The University of California, Merced campus is designed to achieve net-zero emissions, energy use, and waste by 2020—well ahead of California’s already ambitious statewide targets. Photo: Dave Burk © SOM

The climate crisis is no longer a distant alarm — it’s already becoming an immediate reality. As wildfires rage on the west coast of the United States, millions of residents are breathing polluted air. The scenes of devastation recall the unprecedented brushfires we witnessed in Australia last year. Floodwaters from a record hurricane season inundate cities and towns in the southeastern U.S., while earlier this month Japan and Korea were battered by two of the earliest and strongest typhoons on record. Here in the U.K., increased flooding now places one in six homes, or 2.4 million people, at risk.

Natural disasters are nothing new, but we are now witnessing climate events of a harrowing scale and intensity—while scientists predict that hurricanes and wildfires will only become more devastating in the coming decades. It’s clear that climate change is no longer a matter of remote concern. For people around the world, the consequences of inaction are already hitting close to home. …


An architect, mentor, and community builder shares her story.

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Photo © Danielle Campbell | SOM

Right out of architecture school, Ingedia Sanchez landed on the design team for the world’s tallest building. Since joining SOM in 2003, her career has been a steady rise. In addition to her work as a technical architect, Ingedia is a mentor and community leader. In July she was elected the president of the nonprofit organization Arquitectos; she is the first licensed woman architect to hold this role.

I’m a technical architect in our Chicago office. My role is to take a project from the later stages of schematic design through construction administration, coordinating with consultants and with the client. …


A Chicago-based designer shares how she got her start.

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Morgynn Wiley in SOM’s Chicago office. Photo © SOM

Chicago native Morgynn Wiley got a head start as a summer intern at SOM, hit the ground running out of architecture school, and hasn’t broken stride since. For the first profile in our Spotlight series, Morgynn takes a break from her design job to tell us about working in her hometown, the opportunities she’s found as an entry-level designer, and why one portfolio does not fit all.

I’ve been working full time at SOM for a little over two years; it’s my first job out of architecture school. …


Flights are canceled, but Jeddah’s architectural masterpiece endures—and its design is newly relevant for the pandemic era.

by Derek A. R. Moore

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Photo © Jay Langlois | Owens-Corning

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended all of life’s rituals and routines — great and small, sacred and secular. So, the news in late June that the Hajj — the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina that is one of the “five pillars” of the faith, and considered an obligation for those physically and financially capable to make once in their lifetime—would be canceled came as a surprise to probably no one, although it certainly disappointed millions of Muslims and others around the world.

Since 1981, the world’s gateway to the holy cities has been the Hajj Terminal at Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah. Imagining that vast, largely open-air terminal during pandemic conditions has actually revealed the significant public health advantages of its design. In fact, this only adds to a list of innovations — in operations, flexible planning, structural engineering, mechanical engineering and ventilation, not to mention cultural resonance — which took their first monumental form in the Hajj Terminal. Due perhaps to its unique use — mainly during a single, intensive six-week period each year — and its very open-air format, the Hajj Terminal has gone largely unrecognized as the seminal airport terminal of our time. …


What we’ve learned from the Americans with Disabilities Act

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Chicago’s Millennium Park, pictured in 2012. Photo © Vito Palmisano

What does inclusive design mean today? When it comes to buildings and public spaces, equal access has not only become expected — it’s written into law.

Thirty years ago, a landmark civil rights legislation was passed that would forever change architecture and urban design in the United States. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed on July 26, 1990, aimed to guarantee equal rights for 40 million Americans living with physical and mental disabilities.

Born out of a grassroots movement, the ADA barred discrimination in many areas of life, including employment, schools, transportation, and public services. …


Recession-tested professionals offer advice for the Class of 2020

For students graduating this year with the global economy on pause, “commencement” might feel more like entering limbo. But while today’s crisis is unique, it’s not the first recession within memory. Many architects and designers at SOM have faced periods of uncertainty and often learned valuable lessons along the way. We asked them to share their stories.

Houston Drum

Associate, Los Angeles

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I finished grad school in 2009, right in the heat of the Great Recession. After searching for work for 10 months, I was ready to accept anything. A lot of my classmates weren’t able to find work for another year after I did, and many left the profession altogether. I finally found an opportunity through an old professor, at a California-based firm focusing primarily on K-12 education and healthcare projects. …


On the anniversary of Earth Day, we look back—and ahead—at how architects can fight climate change.

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Perched above Lake Geneva, JTI Headquarters is a sustainable building embedded in its landscape. Photo © Adrien Barakat

“Civilizations leave marks on the Earth by which they are known and judged. In large measure, the nature of their immortality is gauged by how well their builders made peace with the environment.”

When Nathaniel Owings, one of the most prominent architects of the 20th century, wrote these words in 1969, it was long before sustainability was a buzzword, and before the threat of climate change was widely understood. An environmental activist as well as a business leader, our firm’s co-founder spoke to the profound responsibility that architects have to protect our planet’s limited resources. …


Running out of movies to watch with great buildings in them? Here’s our architectural guide to your streaming services.

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Around the world, millions of people are adapting to their new routines, staying at home as much as possible in order to flatten the Coronavirus curve and help save lives. For some, all this extra time indoors may lead to a rapidly depleting Netflix/Hulu/Amazon/Criterion queue. So, allow us to recommend some films that feature SOM-designed buildings…

Want to maintain those anxious, end-of-the-world vibes? Check out Cloverfield (2008), in which one of the main characters ends up stuck in her Time Warner Center apartment as a monster attacks New York, forcing everyone to flee while the U.S. military destroys the city in order to kill said monster. …

About

SOM

We are a collective of architects, designers, engineers, and planners building a better future. To learn more, visit www.som.com.

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