The Engineering of Architecture


On view at Architekturgalerie München, The Engineering of Architecture explores the research, design, and realization of cutting-edge structural engineering projects at SOM. The public exhibition is anchored around 20 skyscrapers designed for 10 cities around the globe, each modeled at 1:500 scale. Visitors tower next to SOM’s tallest buildings as they glimpse some of the firm’s most prolific and structurally complex projects.


William Baker, PE, SE, FASCE, FIStructE, NAE

Partner, Structural and Civil Engineering
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

“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 counterproposals.” William F. Baker


Guided by SOM structural engineers and model builders, a team of students from the Illinois Institute of Technology assembled each model by hand using museum board, laser cutters, and glue in the firm’s Chicago offices. Models were created without facades in order to reveal the unique structural framework of each building.


A close look at this model of Liansheng Financial Tower reveals a core tenet of SOM’s design philosophy—structural clarity. Designed in 2012 and proposed for Taiyuan, China, the two divergent ductile braced-frame towers are connected by three skybridges.


United by cohesive design values, SOM buildings represent the culmination of a consistent global design methodology. “The Engineering of Architecture” showcases some of the firm’s most dynamic projects throughout its 80-year history. Visitors are invited to explore SOM’s portfolio in the exhibition, which encompasses a spectrum of building typologies and scales in locations around the world, from Seoul to Salt Lake City.


Exhibition models, pictured from left to right: Burj Khalifa, Dubai; Burj 2020, Dubai; Liansheng Financial Tower, Taiyuan, China; 7 South Dearborn, Chicago; Lotte Super Tower, Seoul; Nanning Wuxiang ASEAN Tower, Nanning, China; Willis Tower, Chicago; Guiyang World Trade Center, Guiyang, China; John Hancock Center, Chicago; CITIC Financial Centre, Shenzhen, China; Cayan Tower, Dubai; Tower Palace III, Seoul; Kingtown International Tower, Nanjing, China; Rural Commercial Bank Headquarters, Shenzhen, China; 100 Mount Street, Sydney; DeWitt Chestnut Apartments, Chicago; 111 Main Tower, Salt Lake City; Inland Steel Building, Chicago. Not pictured: Desert Crystal, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Aspire, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.