skidmore owings merrill

Skyscrapers under construction on the Avenue of the Americas area, north of Rockefeller Center in Fall of 1962. View looking southeast from Park Sheraton Hotel. Buildings under construction are the New York Hilton Hotel (William B. Tabler-Harrison & Abramovitz, 1963) at left; and the 45-story Sperry Rand Building (Emery Roth & Sons, 1963). The 42-story Equitable Life Assurance Building (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1961) are at right. Above it is the top of 70-story Rockefeller Center’s R.C.A. Building (Associated Architects, 1933).

Photo: Andreas Feininger.

Source: Andreas Feininger, Kate Simon. “New York” (New York, Viking Press, 1964).


Throwback Thursday: A Bank for the Jet Age

Completed in 1959, this building was one of several First National City Bank branches located at what was then known as Idlewild Airport (renamed John F. Kennedy Airport in 1963). While the branch served Idlewild passengers and employees, it also handled transactions for airport operations and local industries. The spacious banking floor—revealed through recessed glass walls set within steel framing—sits above a sheltered entrance lobby lined with parking spots on either side and three drive-through windows behind: a jet-aged convenience for customers on the go.


Cadet Chapel – U. S. Air Force Academy
Colorado Springs - El Paso County, Colorado, USA; 1956-63

Walter Netsch of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)
(photographs by Stewarts and Williams & Meyer CO)

see map | outside view | inside view

via “Informes de la Construcción: Volume 18, 171" (1965)

Obit of the Day: Architecture Pioneer

Norma Merrick Sklarek’s (above, center) life was full of firsts:

* First African American woman licensed as an architect (1954 in New York State)
* First African American woman licensed as an architect in California (1962)
* First African American woman named a member of the American Institute of Architects (1966)

A graduate of Columbia University’s architecture program, she was rejected 19 times for positions (“They weren’t hiring women or African Americans, and I didn’t know which it was.”) until the City of New York hired her. In 1955 she joined Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. After five years she headed to California taking a job at Gruen Associates where she worked for twenty years.

While at Gruen she found herself in the role of project manager because most clients would not accept a black woman as their chief designer.. But Sklarek oversaw large projects for the firm, which was best known for designing shopping malls*. She supervised the construction of Pacific Design Center, Fox Hills Mall, San Bernardino City Hall, and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

After leaving Gruen she headed to Welton Becket in time to supervise the construction of Terminal 1 of the Los Angeles International Airport for the 1984 Olympic Games. In 1985 she became a partner in Siegel, Sklarek, and Diamond one of the largest firms with an all-female partnership. In 2007 the AIA presented her the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award “given to an architect…exemplifying the profession’s responsibility toward current social issues.”

Norma Sklarek died at the age of 85.

(Image of Margot Siegel, Norma Merrick Sklarek, and Katherine Diamond courtesy of, and also their copyright)

* Viktor Gruen is considered the father of modern shopping mall design.

Construction of the 59-story Pan Am Building (Walter Gropius-Emery Roth & Sons-Pietro Belluschi, 1963), atop Grand Central Terminal. View looking north from Lincoln Building, in Spring, 1962, with the 52-story Union Carbide Building (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1960) at background, at left.

Photo: Unknown.

Source: Marc Saporta, Georges Soria. “Los Dos Colosos. Enciclopedia Comparada USA-URSS” Vol. 1. (Barcelona, España, Argos, 1969).


 Model Monday: Building with LEGOs

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago created its “Brick by Brick” exhibit to make the ideas behind large and complex structures more accessible. With models built entirely from LEGOs, the show emphasizes the aspects of play at work in architecture. The museum asked design firms and schools to use the beloved plastic blocks to imagine new models for sustainable building. Our contribution, titled “More with Less,” represents an abstract structural network of bricks that can be scaled to an array of building typologies. Shown here are some of the study models created during the design process for the final exhibition, on view at the museum until September.

Construction of the 45-story Sperry Rand Building at Rockefeller Center (Emery Roth & Sons, 1963) in july of 1962. View of the building under construcción from Andreas Feininger’s office at Time & Life Building, with the Equitable Life Assurance Building (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1961) at left.

The Sperry Rand Building is on 1290 Avenue of the Americas .

Photo: Andreas Feininger.

Golden skyscrapers. Sunset view of Midtown Manhattan modern skyscrapers from the top of Rockefeller Center’s International Building in the autumn of 1963. At left is the 52-story Union Carbide Building (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1960) and behind it, the steel skeleton of the new 50-story Chemical Bank New York Trust Building at 277 Park Avenue (Emery Roth & Sons, 1964) under construction. The Art Deco’s golden crown of the Chrysler Building (William Van Allen, 1930), with the New York Central (Warren & Wetmore, 1929) and the 59-story Pan Am Building (Walter Gropius-Emery Roth & Sons-Pietro Belluschi) can be seen on right.

Photo: Eliott Elisofon/LIFE Magazine.

Source: “New York World’s Fair 1964/1965 Official Souvenir Book” (New York, Time & Life, 1964).

The 102-Story Empire State Building. 350 Fifth Avenue west block between 33rd to 34th street. Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, 1929-1931.

View looking south of the Empire State Building from the R.C.A. Building’s observatory, in Spring, 1961. The Wall Street’s skyscrapers are visible at left background with the Cities Service Building (Clinton & Russell, 1932) and the new 64-story One Chase Manhattan Plaza (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1961).

Photo: Alfred Mainzer, Inc.


Throwback Thursday: An Aluminum Vision

Located five miles north of Richmond, Virginia, the former Reynolds Metals Company Headquarters was completed in 1958 and designed by Gordon Bunshaft of SOM. To demonstrate the many possible uses of aluminum to Reynolds’ visiting clients, the building featured more than 1.2 million pounds of the metal—integrated into everything from cladding to carpets. Architectural historian Richard Guy Wilson once said that the building “exemplifies the genius and promise of post–World War II American modernism”—qualities that made the case for the building to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the year 2000.