Posts Tagged ‘Gyo Obata’

Architectural Bucket List: Visiting the Priory Chapel at Saint Louis Abbey

Every day, our communications team writes about HOK projects around the globe. Although we’re very familiar with many of these designs, we know we’ll only be able to see a fraction of them in person.

HOK was founded in St. Louis, though, so I’ve seen a number of projects in the area. Gyo Obata designed the campus for my undergrad university in HOK’s early years. The firm designed my favorite museum, too. In St. Louis itself, I’m fortunate enough to see HOK-designed buildings – including the one I work in – nearly every day.

One of the projects on my “bucket list” of projects I’d like to see in person …

McDonnell Planetarium Marks 50 Years — Now, to Infinity and Beyond!

Photo courtesy St. Louis Science Center Facebook page

Congratulations to the St. Louis Science Center, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium today! This hyperboloid structure, designed by HOK Founding Partner Gyo Obata, opened on April 16, 1963, in Forest Park.

“The strength comes from the shape,” HOK architect Roger McFarland said in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article. “Think of an egg; it’s tiny but strong. It’s a beautifully simple concept. But once you start looking at the construction photographs, you realize how difficult it is to build something so simple.”

In 1966, architecture students from Washington University in St. Louis unknowingly …

H, O + K – Circa 1956

From the archives: Just came across this 1956 photo of HOK founders George Hellmuth, Gyo Obata and George Kassabaum in the Welek Fabrics Building in St. Louis.

HOK Designs Cincinnati’s Tallest, Greenest Structure


The 41-story Great American Tower at Queen City Square has been awarded LEED Gold certification. Gyo Obata led the design team in HOK’s St. Louis office.

“Great American Tower at Queen City Square is the greenest office building in downtown Cincinnati, in addition to being the tallest and largest,” said Mario San Marco, president of Eagle Realty Group.

Read more here.


The US has unfortunately seen a record amount of tornadoes this year, in fact a total to date of 1151 tornadoes with 875 in April alone.  Compare that to a year ago this time of 566 tornadoes (total!).*

Image by Dan Gill for The New York Times
Picture courtesy of  Dan Gill for The New York Times

It’s very disheartening to see the death and destruction that a tornado leaves behind.   The St. Louis area saw the Good Friday Tornadoes sweep through terrorizing the area and Lambert International Airport (see Gyo’s response to the airport’s damage, pictured above). Not even a week later, we saw the Tuscaloosa Tornado killing hundreds …

Happy 40th Anniversary to the Palo Alto Research Center!

Old friend and former HOK lab planner extraordinaire Jim Richert sent an email letting us know that the Palo Alto Research Center, which spun off from Xerox in 2002, celebrated its 40th anniversary this week. This is one of the first lab buildings designed by HOK, and it’s here that the foundation for the personal computer revolution was laid. From a September 21 feature story on PARC:

“It’s well known that the graphical user interface adopted by Apple for its Macintosh and Microsoft for Windows was pioneered at PARC. Perhaps less well known is that the lab also invented or pioneered such commonplace technologies as Ethernet

Gyo Obata’s St. Louis Book Signing

Left Bank Books in St. Louis’ Central West End is hosting a book release party for Gyo Obata tonight!

Obata book signing

A Fitting Tribute to the ‘O’ in HOK

GyoObata bookcover_LO

Most architects with the prominence and portfolio of Gyo Obata are expected to publish some type of vanity book honoring their work and career.

Gyo wanted to mix it up a bit.

Rather than producing a standard puff-piece homage to himself, he decided to include the perspectives of his clients (what a novel concept). Active listening has always been a signature element of Gyo’s work, so the approach is fitting – and refreshing.

Published by The Images Publishing Group,Gyo Obata: Architect | Clients | Reflections features 30 projects spanning five decades – and stretching from St. Louis to Saudi Arabia.

The new book also includes insights into Gyo’s childhood and …

“It’s All About Me” (In a Good Way)

Not actually me

Recently, I was shopping at one of my favorite stores, Whole Foods (insert shameless hope that this plug gets me some free stuff), a place I consistently have an awesome customer experience.

I was standing at the meat and poultry counter with the same butcher (we’ll call him “Joe”) who helps me every Saturday. I didn’t have a specific plan; I just knew that I wanted to serve something new and interesting for dinner.  Joe must have picked up on my furrowed brow, because in addition to his usual “How can I help you?” he asked if there was something in particular I’d like to know more about, was …

A Gateway to Our History + Legacy

“While it is well enough to leave footprints on the sands of time, it is even more important to make sure they point in a commendable direction.”
– James Branch Cabell (1879-1958), Author

Kassabaum, Obata + Hellmuth campaign for their earlier selves at HOK’s 25th anniversary celebration in 1980.

Landscape Architect Bob Belden soaks up studio life in the 1960s.

Hong Kong employees burn the midnight oil to celebrate HOK’s silver anniversary in 2005.

For the past several months, HOK people – current and past – have spent considerable time reflecting on our firm’s 55-year …

A Not So Trivial Pursuit

Working at HOK, we’re routinely given the opportunity to get involved with charitable and community organizations. Here in the St. Louis office, we’ve been working pro bono with the City of St. Louis and the Animal House Fund to create a new city animal shelter, dubbed the Animal House. The hope is that a nicer facility, combined with a better location, will promote higher adoption rates. The new facility will offer increased capacity as well as a more modern, humane environment for the animals. The design documents are 95% complete and the only thing standing in the way of constructing this facility is funding.

animal house aerial SW view

To …

How Gyo Obata Found Shelter from Internment

In the spring of 1942, HOK co-counder Gyo Obata left Berkeley, California, where he had been a promising young student in Cal’s School of Architecture, and boarded a train east. The next day, his family was taken by bus to an internment camp. Nineteen-year-old Gyo avoided a similar fate by coming to St. Louis to study architecture at Washington University. This week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Kavita Kumar wrote a fascinating story about Gyo and three other Japanese-Americans who found shelter at Washington University. There’s also a video interview with Gyo.


(photo and video by Huy Richard Mach, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Take a look at Gyo’s yearboook photo at …

…And the Nobel Prize for Physics Goes to…Gyo Obata???


The surprising selection of Barack Obama as recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize has catapulted the international awards program to the forefront of worldwide consciousness.

Capitalizing on the Nobel attention, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay posted a mini-poll on his website asking people to vote for prominent local citizens he “nominated” for Nobel prizes in the areas of Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Economics, Medicine and Peace.

HOK Founding Partner Gyo Obata is one of five nominees in the Physics category for his design of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium. Completed in 1963, the thin-shell and hyperboloid structure is located on the St. …

Breaking Through Architectural Barriers

Little Beauty

Last week, HOK participated in the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA) 37th annual international conference and exhibition.  As a part of the firm’s diversity initiative, HOK is partnering with organizations like NOMA to break through barriers by expanding the academic and professional horizons to a more diverse pool of individuals pursuing the field of architecture.

Attendees experienced an exciting and energizing line-up of speakers, including keynote presenter Gyo Obata, who recounted his personal journey confronting discrimination as a Japanese-American during World War II.

HOK hosted a special interactive planning and design charette benefiting South Side Day Nursery (SSDN). The exercise included visioning for a new, modern and “green” facility to …

America’s Best Idea Indeed

So I may be the dolt who missed it this weekend, but Mark quickly filled me in and trust me, I WON’T miss it when it comes out officially! 

Ken Burns, the documentary filmmaker who brought the world so many great works (including my favorites, Frank Lloyd Wright  and Mark Twain) now is bringing forth the beauty of America’s National Parks.  The series is coming on PBS on September 27th (which happens to be my birthday! Yay for that!)
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Featuring commentary about Chiura Obata (father of HOK founder, Gyo Obata) who …

Another Side to Saarinen

The Gateway to the West now has a breathtaking view from the East.

The newly christened Mississippi River Overlook in East St. Louis, Illinois, reveals a fresh new perspective of Eero Saarinen’s masterful Gateway Arch.

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Designed by HOK, the 43-foot-tall viewing structure is located at Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park. A contemporary of Saarinen, Martin shared the architect’s vision of creating parks on both sides of the river. Unfortunately, neither visionary lived to see his dream fulfilled.

I asked Gyo Obata (the “O” in HOK) to share his thoughts about the overlook’s design and its significance to the region. Gyo, who studied under Eero’s dad Eliel at Cranbrook Academy …

Gyo’s presentation in San Francisco

Last Monday in our San Francisco’s office, the whole staff had the opportunity to enjoy a very special lunch and learn; a presentation by the ‘O’ of hOk- Gyo Obata on his projects from the 60’s (started of with Saint Louis Priory Chapel which was a career-defining project for Gyo) through his latest projects (Lambert International East Terminal). See the presentation on HOKnetwork slideshare.

Gyo’s visit to his hometown this time, if I were to guess might have been a great excuse to …

A Return to Form: the Priory Chapel

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Completed in 1962, the Saint Louis Priory Chapel was a career-defining project for Gyo Obata and earned HOK its first national recognition.

The church’s circular facade consists of three tiers of whitewashed, thin-poured concrete parabolic arches. Inside, the arches form 20 mini chapels for prayer and meditation.

As I explored this iconic 46-year-old structure, I was struck by its distinctive elegance. I also was reminded of the power of architecture to enrich and inspire people, communities and the world at large.