HOK Founding Partner Gyo Obata Dies at 99

March 10, 2022

The world-renowned architect leaves a rich legacy of enhancing lives through building design.

Gyo Obata, FAIA, a world-renowned architect who co-founded HOK in 1955 with a vision for enhancing lives through building design, passed away on March 8, 2022. He was 99.

Obata was one of the three founders who built HOK from a regional, St. Louis-based architectural practice into one of the world’s most respected global design firms. “He was an exceptionally talented architect and leader as well as a kind, humble man,” HOK said in a statement.

With a career at HOK spanning six decades, Obata continued working in the firm’s St. Louis studio while in his 90s until 2018. “He was a mentor and inspiration to several generations of designers,” HOK continued. “While we mourn his loss, we also celebrate his amazing life and legacy. He will be deeply missed by all those whose lives he touched in such wonderful ways.”

The late architect was a champion of sustainable design, characterized in his work by his thoughtful use of materials and seamlessly integrating projects within their natural environments. During his 50-year tenure as HOK’s design principal, Obata shaped iconic, award-winning projects around the world. A few noteworthy examples include: 

  • The Priory Chapel at Saint Louis Abbey, Creve Coeur, Missouri (1962)
  • The Galleria in Houston (1970)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (1973)
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb Campus, Princeton, New Jersey (1973)
  • National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. (1976)
  • King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (1983)
  • King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (1984)
  • Community of Christ Temple, Independence, Missouri (1994)
  • The Japanese American National Museum Pavilion in Los Angeles (1998)

A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Obata received the Gold Honor Award from the St. Louis chapter of the AIA in 2002. Other awards and honors include the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts from the Japanese American National Museum (2004); the Lifetime Achievement Award from the St. Louis Arts & Education Council (2008); the Dean’s Medal for the Sam Fox Awards for Distinction from Washington University (2008); and the Thomas Jefferson Society Award from the Missouri Historical Society (2016). He is featured in several books, including “Gyo Obata: Architect | Clients | Reflections” (2010).

Read HOK's tribute to Gyo Obata or watch the video below for more. 

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