With its 80 years of experience in bringing together architecture and structural engineering Skidmore, Owings & Merrill remains groundbreaking to this day, particularly in the construction of gigantic skyscrapers, the so-called “supertalls”. Typical structural concepts and individual details from numerous projects across the world serve to illustrate processes of solution finding. The results illustrate the firm’s core values: simplicity, clarity, hierarchy, efficiency, economy and advancement.
“Skidmore Owings Merril, SOM
The Engeneering of Architecture”
January 19 – April 3, 2016
A number of iconic buildings such as the John Hancock Center and the Sears Tower help to position the example projects – ranging from James Turrell’s Skyspace to Burj Khalifa – within the context of the firm’s complete work. The innovative structural solutions presented here indicate how SOM enables the creation of “next generation” buildings.
“One of the biggest challenges is to get engineers to question the problem they’ve been given … If an architect gives you a sketch, don’t take it as a solution, take it as a statement of the problem and then come up with your own counter proposals.” This is what structural engineer Bill Baker recommends in the introductory interview to this book, thereby underlining an approach that has always been embraced at SOM. In a firm which includes architects, structural engineers and urban and landscape planners at the start of each new project – even before the design stage – representatives of all the various disciplines sit down around a table together to discuss each problem and its possible solutions.
This type of collaboration is most evident in the numerous high-rise projects on which the firm has worked. With skyscraper projects in particular, in which an unusual shape necessarily generates considerable additional effort and expense, the link between form and structure is particularly close. In recent decades – particularly in the field of supertall buildings – SOM has repeatedly been responsible for groundbreaking innovations, giving rise to previously unimaginable construction possibilities (and heights). Historical examples include braced tubes and framed tubes, the external structures of which not only provide structural benefits but are also used as design tools to forge a building’s visual identity.
These innovations in skyscraper construction reached their zenith a few years ago in Burj Khalifa, Dubai, which scaled new architectural and engineering heights thanks to its buttressed core and an overall shape derived from its structural behaviour and the prevailing wind loads. With the benefit of hindsight, however, even Burj Khalifa will come to be seen in future as just another stepping stone.
SOM’s research group of engineers and architects is already working on the requirements and solutions of tomorrow. One of its principal tasks is to look at ways of optimising structures and find the optimum balance between structure and shape within the framework of ever more complex specifications and conditions outside the constraints of any specific construction project. At SOM, they see structural engineering as a constantly evolving discipline. This publication sets out the philosophy and approach of SOM Engineering, which, as an autonomous unit, works not only for the firm but also, occasionally, as a service provider for outside architects and artists. As its buildings show, SOM Engineering’s fundamental values are simplicity, structural clarity, sustainability, efficiency and economy. (Text extracted from the catalogue written by Christian Schittich, Chief Editor DETAIL)