Behind the Scenes of Designers at Work

Last week I got the opportunity to tour one of my favorite architecture firms. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP is a top global architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firm. It goes without saying that they are a BIG deal! I first found this company while researching internships at architecture firms last spring. When I found out my mother and I were going to San Francisco I immediately thought about SOM. With a little persistence, I called and set up an appointment to see the office with their PR manager Nikki.

I could barely contain my excitement as I went to the SOM San Francisco office to find out what made them tick. As I stepped out of the elevator I was met with enchanting creativity! You could see all the models on display as you walked into the waiting room. Nikki greeted me and gave me a tour of all the offices. There were so many people quietly working, busy creating and designing their next project. I was impressed with how everyone was working with urgency but somehow peaceful at the same time.


The first major design element I saw was the huge windows lining all the rooms. With a view of the city, SOM had made vision boards in every workspace! Talk about being inspired- all you have to do is look out the window at all the buildings your firm has completed.

The next major design factor I understood was the color of everything. All the desks, walls and models were varying shades of white and some transparent. It gave the office a feeling of space even though it was so busy.

This reminded me of a modern art piece I saw while studying abroad in Italy. It was a white box you could walk in with abstract objects protruding out of the walls inside. This piece was by Fernanda Gomes featured in the Accrochage show in the Punta della Dogana, Venice. The piece was said to “transfer the creative process taking place in a private space to the public space of the gallery.” Walking through the SOM office I felt as if I was walking into a bigger version of Fernanda’s artwork. This had me thinking about the connection between designing something and the environment around the designer. Constructing a space that gives room for creativity to expand is key to designing original pieces.


SOM always creates out of this world skyscrapers that amaze people.  One reason they succeed in their field is because they start with good design. Their workspace allows architects to think outside the box and create something original.


The last component that stuck out to me on this visit was the feeling of passion. It was a peaceful passion. It felt like watching an artist paint. There is something blissful about the strokes and patience it takes, while at the same time there is a strong sense of emotion evoked by the artist. On my journey of discovering what makes good design I have found the most important part to be passion. To design a work space that inspires a specific feeling, passion is the driving force. Everyone has heard the saying if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life. I would like to add to that phrase if you have a passion for what you do you will love every day of your life.



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