Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Rendering for Sears Tower, 1971
This architecture firm was founded in 1936 in Chicago as Skidmore & Owings by Louis Skidmore and his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Owings. Before creating this firm, Skidmore had served as the chief architect (Owings assisted him) for the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. The partners opened a New York office in 1937. After John Merrill joined the firm in 1939, the name changed to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. By 1952, the firm was one of the few American architecture enterprises to employ more than 1,000 people around the country. During the 1960s and 1970s, it designed many large buildings in Chicago, including the Brunswick Building, the John Hancock Center, the Sears Tower, the main libraries for the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, and much of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In the late 1980s, when it employed about 700 people in Chicago, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was the city's largest architecture firm. At the end of the 1990s, Chicago-area projects accounted for about one-third of the firm's $90 million in annual billings across the country. Although a decline in new commercial construction in the early 2000s led to cutbacks in the firm's local workforce, it maintained offices in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong, and São Paulo and had annual billings near $176 million in the United States.