Gyo Obata, co-founder of global architecture firm HOK, dies aged 99

the legacy of gyo obata

gyo obata, co-founder of a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm OKat deceased 99 years old. Born in San Fransisco in 1923, Obata was nearly interned during World War II because of his family’s Japanese heritage, but avoided it by going to study architecture at Washington University in St. louis, where he received his bachelor of science and architecture in 1945. obata then studied at the cranbrook academy of art in bloomfield hills, michigan, earning his master’s degree in architecture and urban design in 1946.

after graduating, gyo obata worked as an architect in the chicago office of skidmore, dues and merrill (SOM) from 1947 to 1951, when he returned to st. Louis. in 1955, he joined architects george hellmuth and george kassabaum to establish st. firm based in louis hellmuth, obata and kassabaum (HOK). the practice has gained worldwide recognition and obata himself has won numerous awards for his creations.

gyo obata at work in the studio in the late 1970s

all images courtesy of OK

Gyo Obata’s death was confirmed by HOK in a official announcement. ‘gyo obata, FAIA, a world renowned architect who co-founded HOK in 1955 with a vision to improve lives through building design, died on March 8, 2022,’ read the statement. with the contribution of obata, the st. louis practice has become one of the most respected design, architecture, engineering and planning firms in the world. Obata’s career spanned six decades. since his retirement in 2012 and until 2018 he maintained an office at HOK’s st. louis studio, where he served as a design consultant for his colleagues.

“Gyo’s extraordinary career at HOK continued into his 90s, and he served as a mentor to several generations of designers, including myself,” says HOK President and CEO Bill Hellmuth, FAIA. “As an example to us all, he led HOK to become the largest architectural engineering firm in the United States while never abdicating its role as a designer of significant projects.

Gyo Obata, co-founder of global architecture firm HOK, dies aged 99
The founders of HOK: gyo obata, george hellmuth and george kassabaum with a model of the chapel of the priory of the abbey saint louis

obata believed that each project should be approached without preconceptions and designed to meet the needs, values ​​and aspirations of the people and community it serves. rather than imposing his will on a project, the architect paid close attention to what clients communicated, and then let the project guide the design of a building that would bring meaning and enjoyment to its occupants.

“gyo embodied all that is honorable in the architectural profession”, mentions bill valentine, FAIA, president emeritus of HOK. ‘instead of designing for the fads of the day or making a personal statement, gyo designed to enhance life. he was a kind and caring man who developed warm and personal relationships with his colleagues and clients. people believed in him, which is essential for turning drawings into buildings.

Gyo Obata, co-founder of global architecture firm HOK, dies aged 99
obata died in st. louis, missouri, march 8, 2022

Gyo Obata, co-founder of global architecture firm HOK, dies aged 99
the gyo obata designed community of christ temple at independence, missouri

Gyo Obata, co-founder of global architecture firm HOK, dies aged 99
the main terminal of st. louis lambert international airport designed by minoru yamasaki and gyo obata

Gyo Obata, co-founder of global architecture firm HOK, dies aged 99
the priory chapel designed by gyo obata at the abbey saint louis

Gyo Obata, co-founder of global architecture firm HOK, dies aged 99
king khalid international airport designed by gyo obata in riyadh, saudi arabia

Gyo Obata, co-founder of global architecture firm HOK, dies aged 99
gyo obata mid 2000s

myrto katsikopoulou I conceive

March 11, 2022

Michael J. Chiaramonte