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Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum

Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum, Inc. (HOK) is a global provider of design and project delivery services. Its 1,600 professionals are linked across a network of offices in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

HOK founding partners George Hellmuth, Gyo Obata and George Kassabaum

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HOK was established in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1955. The firm's name is derived from the surnames of its three founding partners: George Hellmuth, Gyo Obata and George Kassabaum, all graduates of the School of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. The new design firm started with 26 employees and the complementary talents of its three founders, who each assumed a distinct role in the firm's operations. Hellmuth focused on design, Obata on design and Kassabaum on project management.

In 1944, George Hellmuth, while director of marketing at Smith, Hinchman and Grylls (SHG), wrote a document on how to expand a successful practice for a large architect-engineer firm. Hellmuth embraced the roadmap for his new firm, Hellmuth, Yamasaki and Leinweber (HY+L) when it was formed in 1949 and later for Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) when that firm was founded in 1955. Hellmuth's document, referred to as his master plan for a large firm, included thoughts on the importance of obtaining business from large clients who have work to perform in several parts of the world as well as the benefit of developing specialty areas of design practice. Hellmuth's recommended marketing procedures helped to shape HOK as it grew and are in still in use today.

The practice's first building designs were schools in St. Louis suburbs, and St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Florissant was the first private/parochial school designed by the firm. Another prominent school they designed was the Saint Louis Priory School. By the mid-1960s, the firm was winning commissions across the United States and began to open additional offices, starting with San Francisco in 1966 for the design of a library at Stanford University and Dallas in 1968 for the master planning and design of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Also in 1968, HOK launched its interior design practice. HOK also expanded into Washington, DC, after winning the commission to design the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. In 1973, HOK established a presence in New York by acquiring Kahn & Jacobs, designers of many New York City skyscrapers. By the 1970s, the firm was operating internationally and in 1975 the firm was named as architect of the $3.5 billion King Saud University in Riyadh, at the time the single largest building project in the world.

In 1983, HOK formed HOK Sport Venue Event, which became a leader in designing sport stadiums, arenas and convention centers. In January 2009, the Board of HOK Group, Inc. and managers of HOK Sports Facilities, LLC transferred ownership of HOK Sport Venue Event to leaders of that practice. The company is now known as Populous and is completely separate from HOK.

HOK's first office outside the United States opened in Hong Kong in 1984. In 1987, the firm opened a London office and then, in 1995, expanded this London practice by merging with renowned UK architectural practice Cecil Denny Highton. In November 1994, HOK acquired CRSS Architects, Inc. based in Houston, Texas, adding offices in Houston and Atlanta. HOK established its first offices in Canada (Toronto and Ottawa) in 1997 with the acquisition of Urbana Architects.

In 2004, George Hellmuth's nephew, William Hellmuth, was named president of the firm.

By 2007, international work represented more than 40% of HOK's annual revenue. In 2008, HOK opened an office in Mumbai, India. In 2010, it established offices in Seattle, Washington, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

In 2012, HOK Chairman Bill Valentine retired after 50 years with the firm. HOK Chief Executive Officer Patrick MacLeamy, FAIA, assumed the role of chairman.

Architects at the firm include Yann Weymouth.
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