August’s Architect of the Month: Adrian Smith

Adrian Smith is another architect with ties to Chicago that I admire, and he is the mind behind some of the most recognizable and enormous buildings in the world. He’s also the amazing architect who designed the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure in the United Arab Emirates. Smith’s towering skyscrapers have fundamentally changed skylines in cities across the globe, and all of them are real triumphs of design.

Born in Chicago in 1944, Adrian Smith had an early interest in drawing that led his mother to suggest that he go on to study architecture. He started his schooling at Texas A&M University and finished his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Illinois, Chicago in 1969 while working at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

In 2006, Smith founded his own architectural firm, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, where he still works to this day. It’s a place that is firmly dedicated to designing high-performance, energy-efficient, and sustainable architecture on an international scale. By looking at Smith’s large body of work, it’s evident that he’s always stayed true to these principles that define his buildings.

Adrian Smith’s buildings include some of the most iconic landmark buildings in the world, including the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Clocking in at a height of 2,722 feet, which is just over half a mile, it’s a tower that is instantly recognizable. Drawing inspiration from Islamic architecture from the region, it shattered height records and definitely demonstrates the incredible feats of engineering and construction that humans are capable of.

Smith is also hard at work on the new Jeddah Tower currently under construction in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Once completed, it is expected to surpass the height of the Burj Khalifa and will be the first building ever to stand at over 1 kilometer in height. He’s an architect that’s always reaching for new heights in more ways than one, as his buildings also take into account the unique climates they will be built in to achieve new levels of environmental sustainability.

Throughout his career, he’s earned a host of awards and recognitions, including more than 125 design awards, 5 international awards, 9 National AlA awards, 35 state and Chicago AlA awards, 3 ULI Awards for Excellence, and several Progressive Architecture Design Awards. His work has been exhibited at public museums in Chicago, Europe, South America, and Asia and ten of his projects are in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

What inspires me most about Adrian Smith and the buildings that he’s designed is that every project he completes is ambitious and pushes the boundaries of what we believe to be possible. I can’t wait to see what he’ll accomplish next.

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