HOK (firm)

Private company
Industry Architecture, Engineering, & Urban Planning
Founded 1955
Founders George Hellmuth
Gyo Obata
George Kassabaum
Area served
Key people

Patrick MacLeamy (chairman)

William Hellmuth (president + CEO)
Website www.hok.com
HOK founding partners George Hellmuth, Gyo Obata and George Kassabaum
Priory Chapel at Saint Louis Abbey
Tokyo Telecom Center in Tokyo
Passenger Terminal Amsterdam in Amsterdam
Indianapolis International Airport Colonel H. Weir Cook Terminal in Indianapolis, Indiana

HOK, formerly Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum, is an American worldwide design, architecture, engineering and urban planning firm.

As of 2016, HOK is the largest U.S.-based architecture-engineering firm[1] and the second-largest interior design firm.[2] The firm maintains more than 1,800 professional staff across a global network of 23 offices and is active in all major architectural specialties. Its senior leaders are located in several different locations across the world.


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 design firm started with 26 employees and its three founders.

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 1979, George Kassabaum was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate Academician.

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 to leaders of that practice. The company became an independent firm, and rebranded itself as Populous.

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.[3]

By 2007, international work represented more than 40% of HOK's annual revenue.[4]

In 2008, HOK opened an office in Mumbai, India. In 2010, it established an office in Seattle, Washington.

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.

In 2013, HOK acquired the New York and Shanghai offices of hospitality design firm BBG-BBGM, creating one of the largest interior design firms.[5] BBG-BBGM's office in Washington, D.C. continues to operate as BBGM.[6]

In 2014, ORO Editions published “HOK Tall Buildings,” a 300-page book exploring the design of the contemporary high-rise.[7]

On January 13, 2015, HOK announced that it had completed its acquisition of 360 Architecture, a 200-person, Kansas City-based firm specializing in the design of stadiums, ballparks, arenas, recreation and wellness centers, and mixed-use entertainment districts. The acquisition enabled HOK to launch a new global Sports + Recreation + Entertainment design practice and to open new offices in Kansas City and Columbus, Ohio.[8] On May 15, 2015, the firm announced a multi-year partnership with the United Soccer League (USL) in the USA to lead a stadium development, design and standards initiative to help house all USL clubs in soccer-specific stadiums across North America by the end of the decade.[9]

In January 2016, HOK announced that Bill Hellmuth, the firm's president, will succeed Patrick MacLeamy as CEO, effective April 19, 2016. MacLeamy will continue to serve as chairman of HOK following the transition.[10]

Innovation and sustainable design

In 1983, HOK introduced HOK Draw, computer-aided drafting software products that specialized in conceptual architectural design. In the early 2000s, HOK began using Building Information Modeling (BIM) to streamline the design and construction process.[11] In 2012, Building Design + Construction ranked HOK the No. 1 BIM Architecture Firm.[12] In 2013, DesignIntelligence magazine, based in part on the firm's leadership in buildingSMART and BIM, ranked HOK the No. 1 Design Firm for Technology Expertise.[13]

HOK is a leader in sustainable design.[14] Professionals in the firm authored one of the industry's most respected resources on the topic, "The HOK Guidebook to Sustainable Design," originally published in 2000 by John Wiley & Sons. A second edition of the book was published in 2005. In September 2008, to better integrate nature's innovations into the design of buildings, communities and cities worldwide, HOK announced an alliance with the Biomimicry Group, co-founded by Janine Benyus.[15] In 2010, HOK and energy and daylighting consultant The Weidt Group completed design of Net Zero Court, a 170,735-square-foot, market-rate, zero-emissions class A commercial office building in St. Louis.[16]

In 2013, HOK and Biomimicry 3.8 released the Genius of Biome report, a textbook for how to apply biomimicry design principles.[17]

In 2015, for the sixth consecutive year, the DesignIntelligence journal ranked HOK as a leader in sustainable and high-performance design".[18] HOK currently has more than 725 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credentialed professionals and 231 LEED, BREEAM, Green Mark and Green Globe certified projects.

Global offices

United States: Atlanta, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, Washington, D.C.

Canada: Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto

Asia Pacific: Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai

Europe: London. Also leads European Architects Network (EAN) - affiliated firms in Amsterdam, Brussels, Madrid, Milan, Paris and Rome

India: Mumbai

Middle East: Dubai

Selected projects


  1. Staff (April 2006) "Top 500 Design Fitms", Engineering News-Record
  2. Staff (January 25, 2016) "2016 Top 100 Giants Research Ranking", Interior Design Magazine
  3. Dietsch, Deborah K. (November 17, 2008). "HOK's Bill Hellmuth: On top of the world".
  4. Staff (June 23, 2008) "Uncertain Economy Pushes Design Firms To Diversify Their Portfolios" Engineering News-Record
  5. Nalewicki, Jennifer (January 20, 2014). "BBG-BBGM Joins HOK to Form Global Hospitality Leader". Interior Design Magazine.
  6. "BBGM website".
  7. Staff (May 1, 2014) "HOK Tall Buildings",ORO Editions
  8. "HOK completes acquisition of 360 Architecture". PanStadia & Arena Management. January 14, 2015.
  9. "HOK and USL launch stadium development initiative". Stadia. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  10. Staff (January 26, 2016). "HOK Names Hellmuth as CEO". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  11. Staff (January 30, 2007) "BIM at HOK", AEC Magazine January 30, 2007.
  12. Cassidy, Robert and Gregorski, Tim (July 19, 2012) "BIM Finally Starting to Pay Off for AEC Firms", Building Design + Construction
  13. Staff (May/June 2013) "2013 Technology Trends & Innovation Survey", DesignIntelligence
  14. Staff (May 2006)"Sustainable Leadership Awards", CoreNet Global
  15. Merchant, Brian (September 22, 2009) "HOK and Biomimicry Guild Forge Alliance for Bio-Inspired Design Excellence" TreeHugger
  16. Valentine, Bill (October 2010) "Net Zero: Two global design firms issue a call to action and lead by example", Contract
  17. Badore, Margaret (June 20, 2013) "Genius of Biome Report: A Biomimicry Primer", TreeHugger
  18. Staff (July/August 2015) "2015 Sustainable Design & Leadership Surveys", DesignIntelligence
  19. Brown, Steve (November 6, 2013). "Perot Buys Downtown Dallas Corner, Hints at Grand Plans". Dallas Morning News.
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