Eugene Kohn, cofounder of the global architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), passed away today at age 92 after a year-long battle with cancer.
Kohn will be remembered for his “his ability to achieve consensus,” James von Klemperer, president of KPF, shared on the firm’s website. “His seemingly limitless interest in other human beings gave him powerful insights into the social aspect of building programs and larger urban agendas.”
Kohn was born in 1930 in Philadelphia. He studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was taught by Louis Kahn. His creative spirit was inherited from his mother Hannah Kohn, an artist and dressmaker. Before pursuing architecture Kohn had a stint in the military. He served in the US Navy for three years and for five years on Reserve Duty, retiring as Lieutenant Commander.
Gene started Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates in 1976 with partners William Pedersen and Sheldon Fox. All three architects worked together at John Carl Warnecke & Associates. The New York–headquartered firm has grown in its nearly fifty years of operation; KPF now has offices across the globe in London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul, Abu Dhabi, San Francisco, Singapore, Berlin, and employs over 750 staff, making it one the largest architectural firms in the country. Among the firm’s first completed projects was the design of offices and broadcasting studios for ABC.
In 1990, KPF became the youngest firm to receive the AIA Architecture Firm Award. During his career, Kohn worked on projects spanning the country and the globe. He was a registered architect in 26 states and also a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Japan Institute of Architects, and an honorary member of the Fellows of the Philippine Institute.
His extensive list of completed works includes six of the tallest buildings in the world, including the Shanghai World Financial Center and Hong Kong’s International Commerce Centre. More recently, Kohn helped drive the design of a several skyscrapers at Hudson Yards and the recently completed One Vanderbilt in New York.
In addition to commercial towers, Kohn worked on airport terminals in Buffalo, New York; Philadelphia; and Abu Dhabi and designed facilities for the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan, and the University of Oxford, as well as 333 Wacker Drive in Chicago, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
KPF President von Klemperer also shared that without Kohn’s “easy charm and focused intensity, such notable projects as Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, the World Bank in Washington DC, One Vanderbilt in New York, and the reinvigoration of Covent Garden in London would not have realized their full success.”
Kohn was recognized for his contributions to design and architecture by a number of entities and organizations. Among his awards are The National Building Museum Chairman’s Award, The Skyscraper Museum Award, and The Soane Foundation Honors.
He received several awards from his alma mater, including the Alumni Award of Merit by the University of Pennsylvania, the highest university-wide award given to alumni; the Wharton Real Estate Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award; the University of Pennsylvania – PennDesign Dean’s Medal of Achievement, the highest honor awarded by the institution.
This year the architect was awarded the Freedom of the City of London and anointed the title of an Honorary Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects. He was also recently named a Life Trustee of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), the first architect to receive that honor. A fellowship at ULI named in his honor now funds research in low carbon design among other activities for the organization.
Among Kohn’s other recent accomplishments was the publication of his book with writer and editor Clifford Pearson, The World by Design: The Story of a Global Architecture Firm, in which he details his career at KPF.
Kohn had a knack for marketing his firm’s work and ability. He will be remembered for his extensive career in architecture, but also for his wide influence as a leader and mentor.
“Gene was known throughout the architectural world for his ability to promote the services of KPF,” said KPF Cofounder and Design Principal William Pedersen. “As valuable as that has been to the growth of our firm, his value within the firm, counseling our staff, has been even greater.”