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Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (also known by the acronym KPF) is an international architectural design firm located in New York, London and Shanghai providing urban design and master planning for public authorities and private companies. The firm's designs can be seen in commercial skyscrapers such as the Shanghai World Financial Centermarker. In 1990, the American Institute of Architectsmarker (AIA) awarded KPF with its Architecture Firm Award.


The firm was established in 1976 by Eugene Kohn, William Pedersen and Sheldon Fox (1930-2006). Kohn (1930-) marketed the firm while Fox (1930-2006) functioned as the manager and Pedersen (1938-) served as the chief designer. A fourth principal, Patricia Conway (1937-) specialized in planning and interiors, and in 1984 became president of KPF’s splinter interiors firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox Conway Associates, Inc. All four met while employed by John Carl Warnecke and Associates directly prior to KPF’s founding.

Both Eugene Kohn and Sheldon Fox received their architectural degrees from the University of Pennsylvaniamarker. Kohn worked as a designer for Vincent G. Kling Associates from 1960 to 1965, and as New Yorkmarker design director for Welton Becket Associates until 1967 when he became president and partner at John Carl Warnecke and Associates. By 1976 Fox had risen to senior vice president at Warnecke, following employment with Kahn Jacobs (1955-72). After receiving his bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Minnesotamarker, William Pedersen attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker, where after graduation he worked for Pietro Belluschi, MIT’s Dean of Architecture and Planning. In 1965 he won the Rome Prize, spent two years of study at the American Academy in Rome and worked with Italian architect Eduardo Catalino. In 1967 he joined I.M. Pei and Associates until he was lured away in 1971 to become vice president of John Carl Warnecke and Associates. Columbia University graduate Patricia Conway was associate director of planning for Warnecke from 1972 to 1976.



After several designs, the firm’s first major building was 333 Wacker Drivemarker (Chicagomarker, 1983), a 36-story green glass office tower whose sculptural curtain wall imitated the bending Chicago Rivermarker along its triangular site. The structure exploited the sheer reflective mass of the curtain wall by minimizing individual windows through tinting gray green the vertical aluminum window mullions. Green marble and gray granite octagonal columns at the base level made a subtle reference to the Merchandise Mart’s octagonal towers across the river. Additional methods employed in reaction to its environment included beginning the office floors above the track level of the nearby elevated train, thus permitting a large four-floor masonry block base that better integrated the structure with neighboring buildings. The American Institute of Architects rewarded this design with their National Honors Award in 1984, validating KPF’s coming of age as a major player in skyscraper design. The prominence of this building's site, together with the deft handling of the design in response to context, make this building a continued top ranking favorite among Chicago public opinion polls.

The postmodernist manner in which materials such as colored marbles and classically reminiscent forms were employed by KPF became a hallmark of their buildings in the 1980s, many of which were corporate commissions. Some of the best examples were the Hercules Incorporated Headquarters (Wilmington, 1983) in Delaware; the Third National Bank (Nashville, 1985); and CNG Tower (Pittsburgh, 1987). Their second AIA National Honor Award came in 1987 for the Procter & Gamble General Offices Complex (Cincinnati, 1985), an expansion to the company’s existing 11-story headquarters. The multi-volume solution: two 17-story octagonal towers with pyramidal roofs that formed a visual gateway to the city from Interstate 71, and a six-story L-shaped base that embraced new public space as well as connected to the older structure. The prevailing concern for humanizing both the scale and siting of the complex typified KPF’s best work during this period.


KPF increasingly produced tall structures abroad for international clients in the 1990s. They opened offices in Londonmarker (1989) and Shanghai (2006), and added a number of new principals to the firm. In all, KPF built in over 30 countries. The political unification and economic revitalization of Germanymarker, as well as the establishment of the European Union presented unique building opportunities in central Europe particularly. One of KPF’s first significant overseas commissions was the Westendstrasse 1/DZ Bank Headquarters Building in Frankfurtmarker (1993). A mixed-use complex that included a 52-story office tower, residential apartments and a winter garden, the design sought to link the commercial Mainzer Landstrasse corridor with the nearby Westend residential area. In characteristic KPF fashion, the complex revealed a multitude of interlocking geometric forms, each responding to yet another aspect of the surrounding micro and macro environment. In 1994, KPF received its third AIA Honors Award for the Westendstrasse1 design.

A booming Asian economic market led KPF to a large number of commissions in the Pacific Rim, particularly in Chinamarker’s provincial city of Shanghai. Begun in 1997 and work stopped in the 2000s. Development resumed in 2003 and is scheduled for completion in around 2008. The Shanghai World Financial Centermarker will be one of the tallest buildings in the world at . As with most KPF designs, the Shanghai World Financial Center not only physically references its surroundings through its form and materials, but also suggests cultural integration with its use of a "moon gate" cut through the top of the tower. Lightly mirrored glass and horizontally banded stainless steel form a reflective membrane for the square prism shaft that serves as both office tower and hotel, with retail space at the base. Difficulty with soft soil resulted in piles driven over into the soil to anchor the building yet the sheer size of the structure is visually negated by the wind pressure-relieving diameter trapezium void.

Further reading

  • Anderson, Grace, “Five by KPF,” Architectural Record 175:2 (1987)
  • Boles, Daralice Donkervoet and Jim Murphy, “Cincinnati Centerpiece,” Progressive Architecture 66:10 (1985)
  • Chao, Sonia R. and Trevor D. Abramson, editors, Kohn Pedersen Fox: Buildings and Projects 1976-1986, New York: Rizzoli, 1987
  • James, Warren A., editor, Kohn Pedersen Fox: Architecture and Urbanism, 1986-1992, New York: Rizzoli, 1993
  • Kohn Pedersen Fox: Profile, Progressive Architecture 64:10 (1983)
  • McQuade, Walter, “The High Rise of Kohn Pedersen Fox,” Architecture 78:5 (1989)

See also

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