Eugene Kohn, architect of famous skyscrapers, dies age at 92

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A. Eugene (Gene) Kohn, the co-founder of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), passed away at the age of 92 after a year-long fight with cancer. Along with partners William Pedersen and Sheldon Fox, Kohn founded KPF in 1976, and his contributions helped shape the company into what it is today. He was recognized for his ability to find creative solutions and build consensus between designers and developers.

Kohn’s knowledge and expertise in architecture also extended to academia, as he taught at Harvard, Columbia, and his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. He served as President and Chairman of KPF for over 40 years, and the firm received the AIA Architecture Firm Award in 1990 under his leadership. KPF’s portfolio includes designing six of the world’s twelve tallest towers, such as the Shanghai World Financial Center and Hong Kong’s International Commerce Centre. Additionally, KPF designed large-scale projects like Hudson Yards and One Vanderbilt in New York, and Covent Garden in London.

Aside from his contributions to the field of architecture, Kohn also received numerous commendations and awards for his work. He received the National Building Museum Chairman’s Award, the Skyscraper Museum Award, the Soane Foundation Honors, and the Alumni Award of Merit by the University of Pennsylvania, the highest university-wide award presented to alumni. He was also recognized with the Wharton Real Estate Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Kohn’s legacy also includes his recent recognitions, such as being awarded the Freedom of the City of London and gowned an Honorary Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects (WCCA), both in acknowledgment of his contribution to architecture. He was also named a Life Trustee of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), the first architect to receive the honor. KPF established the A. Eugene Kohn/KPF Fellowship is an annual fellowship that funds research on low-carbon design and other activities in the ULI Randall Lewis Center for Sustainability in Real Estate.

William Pedersen, KPF Co-Founder, and Design Principal said, “Gene was known throughout the architectural world for his ability to promote the services of KPF. As valuable as that has been to the growth of our firm, his value within the firm, counseling our staff, has been even greater.”

In an interview, Kohn once said that he and his co-founders “liked the idea of creating something bigger than the three of us that would live longer than any of us.” His legacy lives on through the firm he started and its promise to continue its work worldwide in his honor.

Petersen Automotive Museum

© David Zaitz Photography

KPF’s design, inspired by the shape of an automobile, constructs a new “body” around the existing “chassis” of the museum. The rooftop has been transformed into a rentable party place. Outboard of the structure, a corrugated aluminum rain screen wraps it, while “ribbons” of angel hair stainless steel and red-painted aluminum flow around it, navigating the existing entry vestibule and other holes. The steel “ribbons,” which sit atop the existing structural structure like the body of a car mounted to its frame, convey a sense of speed and movement and are brushed to reduce glare. The design is a contemporary adaptation of Los Angeles’ mid-century, space-age “Googie” architectural style.

The facade features a stainless-steel ribbon assembly made of 100 tons of 14-gauge type 304 steel in 308 sections, 25 supports, and 140,000 custom stainless-steel screws

International Commerce Centre

Eugene Kohn
© Wikimedia Commons

The 118-story KPF skyscraper has offices, a 360-degree observation deck, and The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, one of the world’s tallest hotels. The tower is the focal point of the Union Square reclamation project, which includes the creation of a new urban center with office, retail, hotel, and recreation spaces, as well as a new transportation hub, Kowloon Station, which connects to Central, Hong Kong, the International Airport, and mainland China via a network of high-speed rail, subway, buses, and ferry terminals.

Shanghai World Financial Center

Eugene Kohn
© Wikimedia Commons

The Shanghai World Financial Center, one of KPF’s most well-known and award-winning projects, has stood as a symbol of business and culture since its completion in 2008. As the tower ascends in a gesture to the sky, a square prism, the ancient Chinese sign for the earth, is intersected by two cosmic arcs, indicating the skies. The interaction between these two realms gives rise to the structure’s design, carving a square sky doorway at the summit of the tower that balances the structure and connects the two opposing elements, the heavens, and the earth.

Ping An International Finance Centre

Eugene Kohn
© Steve Tsang

In 2016, KPF collaborated with Ping An Insurance Company to create a supertall headquarters that would serve as the physical and iconic focal point of Shenzhen’s expanding central business district, the Futian District. It connects to other business and residential properties as well as the Line 1 Gou Wu Gong Yuan metro station, placing the tower – and the city – prominently within the Pearl River Delta’s high-speed rail line, increasing access to the region’s increasingly densifying towns.

The Ping An Financial Centre is the tallest structure in Shenzhen, the second tallest structure in China, and the fourth tallest structure in the world. It joined the ranks of the world’s ten highest structures alongside other KPF supertalls such as the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, the Shanghai Global Financial Center, the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong, and the CTF Finance Centre in Guangzhou.

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