A Brief History of Technology at SOM

How digital advancements and a spirit of collaboration have continued to fuel new design ideas.

“When we started using computers as part of our design process, there was no CAD software available,” says Neil Katz. “We had to invent it, come up with the rules, and create the process.” Image © SOM
Computer models of the John Hancock Center in Chicago. Images © SOM
“We’re in a new reality in which we can now make a 3D model while inhabiting it, simulating the design at a real-world scale,” says Cashen. Image © SOM
Visualizing the unbuilt Lotte Super Tower for Seoul, South Korea. Images © SOM
Wangchao Center, Hangzhou, China. Image © SOM
Wangchao Center, Hangzhou, China. Image © SOM
Computer technology played a critical role in the design for the Hajj Terminal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The project was a collaboration between architect Gordon Bunshaft and structural engineer Fazlur Kahn. Images © SOM
Daylight simulations for P.S. 62 (The Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability) helped to create light-filled spaces that reduce the building’s energy use. It is the first net-zero energy school in New York City. Images © SOM

I think the most insulting thing an architect can say to an engineer is “make it work.” We don’t do that here.

Created with Grasshopper and Rhino, this video documents the different workflows and tools that were custom-made to control the Wangchao Center’s parametric design. Video © SOM
Fazlur Khan (left) and Bruce Graham (right) look at a model of the John Hancock Center. “The decision factor is ingrained in that picture — the way they look at the building together, the way they worked together, their back-and-forth dynamic,” says Cashen. Image © 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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