Rumor Mill

A rumor I heard yesterday about Adrian Smith leaving SOM is corroborated today by Blair Kamin in the Chicago Tribune. While Edward states that Smith's "taking about 50 people with him," this bit of information is not part of Kamin's piece. Regardless, it wouldn't surprise me if that were the case, as even at a corporate office with high salaries and good benefits, the camaraderie and allegiance to personalities can run high.

The Tribune article makes the decision stem from a mandatory retirement that SOM would have enforced in about three years. The 62-year old Smith sees another 10-15 years worth of work in him, something not unheard of with architects. Frank Lloyd Wright worked practically until the day he died at the age of 91, Frank Gehry is 77 years old and shows no sign of slowing down just yet.

Missing image - adriansmith.jpg

Also in the rumor mill is news on the oft-reported Aqua tower by Studio Gang, a mixed-use high-rise that's becoming the signature building of the Lakeshore East development in Chicago. According to a tipster who will remain anonymous here, with its latest submission to the building department, "the design appears to have been value engineered...[the] dramatic cantilevered balcony's projecting 12' or more from the body of the building...have been reduced to 5' or less." Also, "the curved edges [now] die into the corners of the building," where before they wrapped the corners, making the building appear less box-like.

I have not corroborated this rumor with the architect or the City of Chicago, though a progression of this sort is not uncommon in this, or any type, of building design. And the fact that Studio Gang is a design consultant on Aqua and Loewenberg Architects -- a firm notorious for throwing up cheap and ugly buildings -- is the architect of record makes this progression all the more understandable. Regardless, let's hope that this rumor turns out to be false.


  1. 12 foot concrete slab cantilevers are pretty large and thicker than normal slabs are necessary to pull it off. That's quite a bit of weight when you multiply it by all the floors in the building. 10 feet is better and 8 feet would be optimal. Cutting it to 5 feet seems a bit much. Let's hope they try their best to conform to the original design.

  2. On the SOM Chicago Exodus- Last i heard was one of the studio heads Gordon Gill- Very talented guy is also leaving with him...

    It could be Smith and Gill Architects

  3. I used to work for Adrian Smith a few years ago. At that point he had already been pushed out from his role as a hands on designer by being given the title of "consulting partner" as opposed to simply partner. His move outside SOM makes sense since the political dynamics throughout all of the firm's offices have changed to reflect the wishes of SOM's New York office, which was never very sympathetic to Smith. If it's true that Gordon Gill is leaving, expect him to carry the brunt of the design responsibilities, as Smith will concentrate on rain-making and offering his design critiques on the fly.

    In my opinion, the loss of Adrian Smith is no big deal for SOM. He had a post-modern bent to most of his signature buildings, and the new design directions that SOM is seeking naturally departed from Smith's philosophy.

  4. It wouldn't surprise me if more studio heads left with Gordon and Adrian, especially other Assoc. Partner studio heads. I can only imagine their reaction a few years back (2002?) when two fairly young designers from the NY office were named design partners in the Chicago office, more or less putting a halt to the Chicago AP studio heads' corporate ladder climbing at the Chicago office.

  5. For what it's worth, I was at a Chicago Architecture Foundation panel tonight where Jeanne Gang appeared. She was asked about the balreduction story and said it wasn't true.

  6. I have to agree with much of what everyone has written on SOM. I worked in the Gordon Gill studio a little while back for a couple years and have to say they are losing a great talent, good leader and genuinely nice guy - so rare in that place. Say what you want about Adrian Smith, but he was the breadwinner in Chicago for the three years I was there. Combine that with the two NY big heads coming in and not landing any jobs for two years and you have a recipe for some disastrous ego gumbo. SOM is a great firm but they had it commin and it's tuff taking a big boot in the ash. They'll recover - they always do but they'll be the worse off for it. Especially since Adrian landed most of their China jobs.
    That said, I wish all of them the best. Especially Bernie Gandras - one of the best all-around architect's left in that place.


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