HOK (firm)

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Private company
Industry Architecture, Engineering, & Urban Planning
Founded 1955
Founder George Hellmuth
Gyo Obata
George Kassabaum
Area served
Key people

Patrick MacLeamy (chairman/CEO)

William Hellmuth (president)
Website www.hok.com
HOK founding partners George Hellmuth, Gyo Obata and George Kassabaum
Priory Chapel at Saint Louis Abbey
Tokyo Telecom Center in Tokyo
Passenger Terminal Amsterdam in Amsterdam
Indianapolis International Airport Colonel H. Weir Cook Terminal in Indianapolis, Indiana

HOK (formerly Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum) is a global design, architecture, engineering and urban planning firm.

The Regent Parkway residential tower in Bonifacio Global City, Metro Manila, Philippines.

As of 2015, HOK is the largest U.S.-based architecture-engineering firm[1] and the second-largest interior design firm.[2] The firm maintains more than 1,800 professional staff across a global network of 24 offices and is active in all major architectural specialties. Its senior leaders are located in several different locations across the world.


HOK was established St. Louis, Missouri, in 1955. The firm's name is derived from the surnames of its three founding partners: George Hellmuth, Gyo Obata and George Kassabaum, all graduates of the School of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. The design firm started with 26 employees and its three founders.

The practice's first building designs were schools in St. Louis suburbs, and St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Florissant was the first private/parochial school designed by the firm. Another prominent school they designed was the Saint Louis Priory School. By the mid-1960s, the firm was winning commissions across the United States and began to open additional offices, starting with San Francisco in 1966 for the design of a library at Stanford University and Dallas in 1968 for the master planning and design of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Also in 1968, HOK launched its interior design practice. HOK also expanded into Washington, DC, after winning the commission to design the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. In 1973, HOK established a presence in New York by acquiring Kahn & Jacobs, designers of many New York City skyscrapers. By the 1970s, the firm was operating internationally and in 1975 the firm was named as architect of the $3.5 billion King Saud University in Riyadh, at the time the single largest building project in the world. In 1979, George Kassabaum was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate Academician.

In 1983, HOK formed HOK Sport Venue Event, which became a leader in designing sport stadiums, arenas and convention centers. In January 2009, the Board of HOK Group, Inc. and managers of HOK Sports Facilities, LLC transferred ownership of HOK Sport to leaders of that practice. The company became an independent firm, and rebranded itself as Populous.

HOK's first office outside the United States opened in Hong Kong in 1984. In 1987, the firm opened a London office and then, in 1995, expanded this London practice by merging with renowned UK architectural practice Cecil Denny Highton. In November 1994, HOK acquired CRSS Architects, Inc. based in Houston, Texas, adding offices in Houston and Atlanta. HOK established its first offices in Canada (Toronto and Ottawa) in 1997 with the acquisition of Urbana Architects.

In 2004, George Hellmuth's nephew, William Hellmuth, was named president of the firm.[3]

By 2007, international work represented more than 40% of HOK's annual revenue.[4]

In 2008, HOK opened an office in Mumbai, India. In 2010, it established an office in Seattle, Washington.

In 2012, HOK Chairman Bill Valentine retired after 50 years with the firm. HOK Chief Executive Officer Patrick MacLeamy, FAIA, assumed the role of chairman.

In 2013, HOK acquired the New York and Shanghai offices of hospitality design firm BBG-BBGM, creating one of the largest interior design firms.[5] BBG-BBGM's office in Washington, D.C. continues to operate as BBGM.[6]

In 2014, ORO Editions published “HOK Tall Buildings,” a 300-page book exploring the design of the contemporary high-rise.[7]

On January 13, 2015, HOK announced that it had completed its acquisition of 360 Architecture, a 200-person, Kansas City-based firm specializing in the design of stadiums, ballparks, arenas, recreation and wellness centers, and mixed-use entertainment districts. The acquisition enabled HOK to launch a new global Sports + Recreation + Entertainment design practice and to open new offices in Kansas City and Columbus, Ohio.[8]

Innovation and sustainable design[edit]

In 1983 HOK introduced HOK Draw, computer-aided drafting software products that specialized in conceptual architectural design. More recently,[when?] HOK uses Building Information Modeling (BIM) to streamline the design and construction process.[9] In 2012, Building Design + Construction ranked HOK the No. 1 BIM Architecture Firm.[10] In 2013, DesignIntelligence magazine, based in part on the firm's leadership in buildingSMART and BIM, ranked HOK the No. 1 Design Firm for Technology Expertise.[11]

HOK is a leader in sustainable design.[12] Professionals in the firm authored one of the industry's most respected resources on the topic, "The HOK Guidebook to Sustainable Design," originally published in 2000 by John Wiley & Sons. A second edition of the book was published in 2005. In September 2008, to better integrate nature's innovations into the design of buildings, communities and cities worldwide, HOK announced an alliance with the Biomimicry Group, co-founded by Janine Benyus.[13] In 2010, HOK and energy and daylighting consultant The Weidt Group completed design of Net Zero Court, a 170,735-square-foot, market-rate, zero-emissions class A commercial office building in St. Louis.[14]

In 2013, HOK and Biomimicry 3.8 released the Genius of Biome report, a textbook for how to apply biomimicry design principles.[15]

In 2014, for the fifth consecutive year, the DesignIntelligence journal ranked HOK as a leader in sustainable and high-performance design".[16] HOK currently has more than 900 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credentialed professionals and 169 LEED, BREEAM, Green Mark and Green Globe certified projects.

Global offices[edit]

United States: Atlanta, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, Washington, DC

Canada: Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver

Asia Pacific: Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai

Europe: London, HOK Euronet - affiliated firms in Amsterdam, Brussels, Madrid, Milan, Paris and Rome

India: Mumbai

Middle East: Dubai


Dispute over proposed LG corporate headquarters

Beginning in January 2013, HOK’s design for the planned North American corporate headquarters of LG Electronics became the subject of legal and political controversy.[17] The proposed 143-ft tower, to be constructed in Englewood, NJ, would rise several stories above the treeline of the Palisades, a National Natural Landmark. The tower project requires a variance and changes to local zoning laws, which historically have prohibited buildings above 35 feet to protect the view.[18]

Advocacy groups and government officials from New York and New Jersey have heavily protested the proposed tower and filed lawsuits in NJ Superior Court, fighting changes made to zoning laws to permit the tower’s construction. Critics have suggested that a lower building could be redesigned on the 27-acre site. LG responded by stating that a redesign would “severely delay the economic and community benefits the new building will bring to the region.”

Selected projects[edit]


  1. ^ "The Top 500 Design Firms 2014', "Engineering News-Record", April 14, 2014
  2. ^ "2015 Top 100 Giants', "Interior Design", February 24, 2015.
  3. ^ Dietsch, Deborah K. (November 17, 2008). "HOK's Bill Hellmuth: On top of the world". 
  4. ^ "Uncertain Economy Pushes Design Firms To Diversify Their Portfolios," Engineering News-Record", June 23, 2008.
  5. ^ Nalewicki, Jennifer (20 January 2014). "BBG-BBGM Joins HOK to Form Global Hospitality Leader". Interior Design magazine. 
  6. ^ "BBGM website". 
  7. ^ " HOK Tall Buildings, "ORO Editions", May 1, 2014.
  8. ^ "HOK completes acquisition of 360 Architecture". PanStadia & Arena Management. January 14, 2015. 
  9. ^ "BIM at HOK', "AEC Magazine", January 30, 2007.
  10. ^ "BIM Finally Starting to Pay Off for AEC Firms', "Building Design + Construction", July 19, 2012.
  11. ^ "2013 Technology Trends & Innovation Survey', "DesignIntelligence", May/June 2013.
  12. ^ "HOK Earns Sustainable Leadership Award', "Interior Design", May 9, 2006.
  13. ^ "HOK and Biomimicry Guild Forge Alliance for Bio-Inspired Design Excellence', "Treehugger.com", September 22, 2008.
  14. ^ " New Zero: Two global design firms issue a call to action and lead by example, "Contract", October 2010.
  15. ^ " Genius of Biome Report: A Biomimicry Primer, "Treehugger", June 20, 2013.
  16. ^ ["2013 Sustainable Design & Leadership Surveys], "DesignIntelligence", July/August 2013.
  17. ^ " The Cloister’s View Is Threatened By LG Electronics Offices, The New York Times, January 21, 2013.
  18. ^ " Decision by New Jersey judge will mar Bronx views of Palisades forever, The New York Daily News, August 15, 2013.
  19. ^ Brown, Steve (6 November 2013). "Perot Buys Downtown Dallas Corner, Hints at Grand Plans". The Dallas Morning News. 

External links[edit]