The Chicago Athenaeum BACK TO HOMEPAGE >
Press Office

Press Release


Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) are presented with the Louis H. Sullivan Award by  The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies at a Gala Dinner Awards Ceremony in Chicago on October 3 

(CHICAGO, ILLINOIS) SEPTEMBER 19, 2016…One of the world’s most prolific, dynamic, and visionary architecture offices, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) are the Laureates of this year’s American Prize for Architecture

For a decade, the Chicago-based architecture firm of AS+GG have been engaged in the design and development of energy-efficient and sustainable architecture with award-winning designs for supertall towers, large-scale mixed-use complexes, corporate offices, exhibition facilities, cultural facilities and museums, civic and public spaces, hotels and residential complexes, institutional projects and high-tech laboratory facilities, as well as cities designed for 80,000 inhabitants. 

Adrian Smith and the firm’s largest projects to date, Burj Khalifa (while at SOM) and The Kingdom/ Jeddah Tower, the latter to be completed in 2020, are the two tallest skyscrapers in the world. 

For this award and from a long list of global accomplishments, AS+GG are cited for the production of powerful and evocative works of architecture that also address key social challenges of the 21st-Century. 
The works produced by this firm are stunningly original and exuberant; seamless in a fusion of art and technology. 

The American Prize for Architecture,
also known as The Louis H. Sullivan Award, is given to an outstanding practitioner in the United States that has emblazoned a new direction in the history of American Architecture with talent, vision, and commitment and has demonstrated consistent contributions to humanity through the built environment and through the art of architecture.
The award, organized jointly by two public institutions, The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, honors American architects, as well as other global architects practicing on those continents, whose body of architectural work, over time, exemplifies superior design and humanist ideals.

Instituted in 1994,
The American Prize for Architecture pays tribute to the spirit of the founder of modernism, Louis Sullivan, and the subsequent generations of Chicago practitioners as Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel H. Burnham, and Holabird & Root. It also broadcasts globally the significant contributions of America’s rich and inspiring architecture practice and its living legacy to the world at large.
Previous Laureates include: Sir Norman Foster, Michael Graves, General Services Administration, and Richard Meier.

“This year’s public accolade to this Chicago firm is long overdue,” states Christian Narkiewicz-Laine, Museum President/CEO, The Chicago Athenaeum. 

“In a period of ten short years, AS+GG have enriched contemporary architecture globally and have added much to the Green Building Revolution to find sustainable solutions for new buildings and new cities with a profound concern and respect for the environment and for the people who inhabit them.”

This year’s Prize also coincides with the ten-year anniversary of the firm’s founding by partners Adrian Smith, Gordon Gill, and Robert Forest.

In a decade, AS+GG have completed remarkable buildings at a speed no less than light. 

About 30 massive projects are currently underway in The United Arab Emirates, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, China, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Canada, and the United States.
Most notable are such award-winning projects as Astana Congress Center (Kazakhstan), Dancing Dragons and FKI Tower (Seoul), Greenland Tower Chengdu (Chengdu) Baku Landmark Development (Baku), Incheon

International Airport (Incheon), Xixian Great City Master Plan (Xixian), Waldorf Astoria Beijing (Beijing), Wuhan Greenland Center (Wuhan), Hilal Tower (Riyadh), Hotel Atlantic (Dubai), Imperial Tower (Mumbai), as well as urban projects for the City of Chicago. 

The firm’s architectural premise is to create intelligent, high-performance, forward-looking designs that exhibit timeless and enduring qualities.
As architects, the firm recognizes and respects the designer’s role in shaping civic life. Their goal is to create designs that aid society, advance technology, and sustain the environment, as well as inspire and improve the world around us.

"Like Daniel H. Burnham," states Narkiewicz-Laine, "these are no 'little plans'.”
The success of AS+GG rests on the premise that the future of architecture relies not on a changing aesthetic, but on the implementation of an integrated process, predicated on an equal understanding and consideration of each project discipline. The firm’s design approach explores symbiotic relationships with the natural environment —a philosophy the firm calls "global environmental contextualism.”

The glacier-inspired Greenland Tower Chengdu in China, due for completion in 2018, a 468-metre-high, 100-story crystalline skyscraper, takes its faceted-glass form from the unique context: the ice mountain topography around the city. The narrow cylinder tapers upward and is sculpted like a giant prism to diffuse light from 360 degrees, creating a connection between sky and the earth.

In the 400-metre-high, 116-story Imperial Tower for Mumbai, India, slated for completion in 2018, the building soars upward as a giant, skinny cylinder designed to "confuse the wind" and withstand strong currents, thereby minimizing the negative effects of wind action on the tower. Green terraces called "sky gardens" are inserted into the tower and break up wind currents. The sky gardens also provide unprecedented access to light, views, and connection with the natural world that are unprecedented in Mumbai.

In Seoul’s twin tower Dancing Dragons, mullions between the overlapping glass panels of the exterior incorporate natural ventilation, while huge skylights will span the roof of each tower. The “scales” suggest the Korean mythical dragons and circulate air, making the skin “breathable,” like that of certain animals. The same design theme, the 
geometry of the building skin and the jutting canopies, is repeated at the towers’ base to form a faceted-glass shopping center at ground level.

AS+GG’s approach takes into consideration building orientation, daylighting, generation of wind power, solar absorption and a site's geothermal properties, represents a fundamental change in the design process, in which form facilitates performance.

Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou, China, the first Green Building of its kind, was originally designed to use zero net energy by drawing all its needed power from wind, sunlight, and geothermal mass; though, in the end, this design goal was not fully achieved, but nonetheless became a powerful prototype for future, more energy-efficient and sustainable high-rise buildings.

Likewise, Masdar Headquarters, the world’s first mixed-use, positive-energy building, uses sustainable design strategies and systems to produce more energy than it consumes. The project is the centerpiece of Masdar City, a zero-waste, carbon-neutral development outside Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Sustainability and Green Design are a cause célèbre of this architecture practice, and not only in buildings they fabricate, but also in urban planning projects AS+GG designs, such as large-scale masterplans for King Abdullah Economic City in Jeddah, Beijing Central Business District, the Nation of Bahrain, Chongming Island in China, Jumeira Gardens in Dubai, Za'abeel Energy City in Dubai, and many others.

In the Master Plan for Chengdu Tianfu District, AS+GG have been able to create a city that will use 48% less energy and 58% less water than conventional developments of its size, producing 89% less landfill waste and generating 60% less carbon dioxide. The city, which will be connected to Chengu and other population centers by a mass-transit system, is intended as a prototype for other parts of China.

Back at home, in 2010, AS+GG brought their Green campaign to Chicago studying the 50 blocks that make up the neighborhood in downtown Chicago known as the Loop. The result was the
Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan, and a book by the architects, Toward Zero Carbon.

In 2008, the architects also designed the
Clean Technology Tower, a net-zero-energy, mixed-use development designed specifically for a site in Chicago as way to develop a prototype to demonstrate sustainable architecture principles that can be applied globally. Equipped with wind turbines creating a large wind farm and photovoltaic cells, the tower is an energy producer, as opposed to an energy consumptor.

Also in Chicago, and more recently, AS+GG recently completed
The Pullman National Monument Redevelopment Plan (2015), the product of 40 volunteer economists, architects, landscape architects, planners, and engineers, working with Pullman residents and a team of technical advisors with expertise in the neighborhood and the region, which seeks to restore, refurbish, and revitalize Solon Spencer Beman’s historic City of Pullman (1880), which, for decades, has sadly laid waste, deteriorated, and become disenfranchised by the City of Chicago despite its international fame and National Landmark Status.
Another Plan, The Lincoln Park Sustainability Roadmap (2015), seeks to translate and encourage a sustainable civic policy from the City level to the scale of the blocks, buildings, roadways, and parks that comprise Chicago neighborhoods. 

Both Chicago plans won a 2016
Green GOOD DESIGN Award from The Chicago Athenaeum.

The energy-efficient buildings designed by AS+GG respond to the local climate with innovative, efficient facades and floor plans and offer the users natural light and convivial meeting places.

AS+GG embrace a holistic approach to design believing that the future of architecture relies not on a changing aesthetic, but rather on the implementation of an integrated process, predicated on an equal understanding and consideration of each project discipline. A move forward in developing new methods and technologies.

Most noteworthy, the majority of AS+GG commissions have arrived through limited design competitions, and up against such notable international star architects as Sir Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Coop Himmelb(l)au, UNStudio, Snøhetta, SOM, HOK, Arta Isosaki, and Mosha Sofdie.

“Somehow,” continues Narkiewicz-Laine, “even with all the odds stacked up against them, AS+GG schemes surface to the top as the ultimate winners; amazingly pushing the envelope with enormous skill and erudition, in a rich and diverse architectural palette; provocative risks undertaken with sheer confidence and bravado, but never with a predictable or rarefied architecture.”

“Often times, in juries, like The International Architecture Awards, most of the AS+GG works are immediately dismissed as hard-to-believe 'fantasy projects,' twisting and turning in their convoluted geometries, almost defying gravity, though these projects are very real, with very real clients, and most under construction to the jury’s utter astonishment.”
But, it’s the super-tall that really turns the heads.

Adrian Smith and AS+GG’s designs for Burj Khalifa and The Kingdom/Jeddah Tower are both highly technological and distinctly organic. Both towers share a similar three-petal triangular footprint for stability and a tapering form with sheer height and wind being the biggest structural design challenge. One stepped-back, the other aerodynamically tapered.

The Burj Khalifa, a bundle of cylinders that are not uniform yet are formally organized, rises in a graceful spire. 

Jeddah Tower has a sleek, streamlined form of the tower that can be interpreted as a reference to the folded fronds of young desert plant growth. The way the fronds sprout upward from the ground as a single form, then start separating from each other at the top, is an analogy of new growth fused with technology. The smooth, sloped façade of the tower particularly induces a beneficial phenomenon known as "wind vortex shedding.”

Both buildings have become world architectural icons before they were even finished, not just for their sheer height and magnitude, but because for their ingenious designs and structural engineering. 
The end design result are two very different, powerful architectural symbols of world economic power and might. 

While these super Behemoth buildings are a major turn-off to many contemporary architectural practitioners and critics, AS+GG have successfully strived to design and produce tall and small buildings that are sustainable, energy efficient, respectful of natural resources, and kind and considerate to the environment. 

“Skyscrapers are not by choice, they are an urban
realpolitik,” Narkiewicz-Laine defends. 

“To their credit, at the bottom line, AS+GG produce the super-tall with rare and sincere conviction for their environmental implications.”

In addition to Burj Khalifa and The Kingdom/Jeddah Tower, Adrian Smith and AS+GG have designed several other recent supertall towers: the Zifeng Tower in Nanjing, China, the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago, and the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai, as well as the Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou, China. 

The latter four buildings are all among the top eleven tallest in the world.

In Chicago, Adrian Smith, while at the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP., designed Franklin Center (formerly the AT& T Corporate Center of 1989, the 5th tallest building in Chicago and the 13th tallest in the United States) and NBC Tower also of 1989, which was inspired by the rich Art Deco tradition of Chicago’s high-rise architecture from the 1930s. 

“In essence,” continues Narkiewicz-Laine, “Adrian Smith and AS+GG continue Chicago’s rich legacy as the birthplace of the first modern skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building designed by William LeBaron Jenney in 1884.” 

AS+GG’s super high-rise, The Kingdom/Jeddah Tower, is the incarnation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s unfulfilled visionary dream of the Mile High Illinois, which Wright designed in 1957.”

“But it’s not just the height that matters,” continues Narkiewicz-Laine, “it’s about the ultimate genius behind these soaring gigantics and all their subsequent, profound and complex engineering.” 

“During the 1980s, I first met Adrian Smith at city planning meetings in Chicago when he was the
protégé of SOM’s Bruce Graham, the design architect of then Sears Tower and the John Hancock Building.” 

“I saw a young, aspiring architect of extraordinary intellect, vision, and passion about architecture; a young man who sat down at lunch one day with Mexican architect Luis Barragán and left that lunch a changed architect.” 

“Adrian ultimately understood that modern architecture was not about sterile boxes or orthodox conventionality, but a singular challenge for those who possess real vision and the intellectual freedom to exercise no-limit artistic expression.” 

“And, that’s the extraordinary, intellectual road he and his partners, Gordon Gill and Robert Forest, have elected to take on their path to success for the past ten years,” Narkiewicz-Laine concludes.

The formal award ceremony for this year’s
American Prize for Architecture takes place in Chicago before a gathering of American architects and Chicago’s business community at a Gala Dinner held at Galleria Marchetti (825 West Erie Street) on Monday, October 3.

Ticket information is available by calling The Chicago Athenaeum at +815/777-4444

On Tuesday, October 4, Adrian Smith will present the firm’s new work at a lecture at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 East Washington Street) starting at 6:30 PM.
The lecture is open to the public. Tickets are $10.00 and available by calling The Chicago Athenaeum  at +815/777-4444.

A new book entitled: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG), is being readied for publication this December by Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd. 
The book can be ordered on-line at

For more information, contact Ms. Jennifer Nyholm at +815/777-4444 or by email at

NOTE TO REPORTERS AND EDITORS: Photos of the 2016 American Architecture Awards are available for download.
For more details on the award and previous winners, visit The Chicago Athenaeum’s website at

About The Chicago Athenaeum ( is a global nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide public education about the significance of architecture and design and how those disciplines can have a positive effect on the human environment.
The Chicago Athenaeum | 601 South Prospect Street
Galena, Illinois 61036, USA | Tel: 815/777-4444 | Fax: 815/777-2471