New York, N.Y. – March 9, 2023 – A. Eugene (Gene) Kohn, FAIA, RIBA, JIA, Co-founder of international architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, died today of cancer. He was 92.
“Gene was universally respected in the community for his ability to achieve consensus,” said James von Klemperer, KPF President. “His seemingly limitless interest in other human beings gave him powerful insights into the social aspect of building programs and larger urban agendas. Without his easy charm and focused intensity, such notable projects as Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, the World Bank in Washington D.C., One Vanderbilt in New York, and the reinvigoration of Covent Garden in London would not have realized their full success.”
Kohn was active in his professional pursuits until the end. He believed passionately in the principle of teamwork, and encouraged all who worked with him to realize their dreams. He organized KPF as a collaborative collection of mutually supportive colleagues, all dedicated to excellence in design.
“Gene was known throughout the architectural world for his ability to promote the services of KPF,” said William Pedersen, KPF Co-Founder and Design Principal. “As valuable as that has been to the growth of our firm, his value within the firm, counseling our staff, has been even greater.”
Speaking about the early goals of KPF, he once stated that he and his partners, Pedersen and Sheldon Fox, “liked the idea of creating something bigger than the three of us that would live longer than any of us.”
ROOTS IN PHILADELPHIA, SERVICE IN THE NAVY
Kohn was born in 1930 and raised in Philadelphia. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he was a student of Louis Kahn, whose deep understanding of history and use of powerful geometries informed his view of architecture. Kohn was the recipient of the Theophilus Parsons Chandler Architecture Fellowship for advanced study and travel abroad
Kohn served in the navy for three years between earning his degrees and for five years on Reserve Duty, retiring as a lieutenant commander.
Kohn’s love of art and creative spirit can be attributed to his mother, Hannah Kohn, whom he credited for his career as an architect. A dressmaker and entrepreneur in her own right, Hannah Kohn was also a talented artist. Her influence on her son can be seen not only through the success of his firm, but in his vast portfolio of watercolor paintings and appreciation of art in all forms.
LEADING THE FIRM'S GLOBAL EXPANSION
As KPF’s original President and Chairman, Kohn shepherded the practice through many economic and cultural cycles over 40 years, leading its expansion into varied geographies and sectors.
Under his leadership, KPF was the youngest practice to be recognized with the AIA Architecture Firm Award (1990). The firm designed such notable projects as 333 Wacker Drive in Chicago; the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; the Petersen Automotive Museum (Los Angeles); and headquarters for Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati), the World Bank (Washington, D.C.), IBM (Armonk, N.Y.), Unilever (London), and DZ Bank (Frankfurt, Germany).
Six of the world’s twelve tallest towers, including the Shanghai World Financial Center and Hong Kong’s International Commerce Centre, were designed by KPF, as well as airport terminals in Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Abu Dhabi, city-shaping projects including Hudson Yards and One Vanderbilt (New York), Covent Garden (London), and Roppongi Hills (Tokyo), and academic buildings at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan, and the University of Oxford.
RECIPIENT OF NUMEROUS AWARDS AND HONORS
Kohn received numerous commendations and awards, including The National Building Museum Chairman’s Award, The Skyscraper Museum Award;,The Soane Honors, and the Alumni Award of Merit by the University of Pennsylvania, the highest university-wide award presented to alumni.
He was also recognized with the Wharton Real Estate Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award; the University of Pennsylvania – PennDesign Dean’s Medal of Achievement, the highest honor awarded by the institution; and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
In 2019, KOHN received the Kanter Tritsch Medal for Excellence in Architecture and Environmental Design, which honors architects who have changed the course of design history. He was an Executive Fellow of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, the first architect to be awarded the title.
Earlier this year, Kohn was awarded the Freedom of the City of London and gowned an Honorary Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects (WCCA), both in acknowledgment of his contribution to architecture.
Kohn was also named a Life Trustee of the Urban Land Institute, the first architect to receive the honor. KPF established the annual A. Eugene Kohn/KPF Fellowship to fund research on low carbon design and other activities in the ULI Randall Lewis Center for Sustainability in Real Estate.
SERVICE TO THE PROFESSION AND COMMUNITY
A registered architect in 26 states, Kohn was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and served as president of the AIA New York City Chapter. He was also a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Japan Institute of Architects, and was an honorary member of the Fellows of the Philippine Institute.
An Emeritus Board Member of the Council on Tall Buildings and the Urban Habitat, Kohn taught at Harvard Business School for over 10 years and at the Harvard Graduate School of Design for four years. He also served as a Trustee for the University of Pennsylvania, was an Overseer for its School of Design, and a Member of the Wharton Real Estate Center Advisory Board.
He was an Emeritus Trustee of the National Building Museum and the Urban Land Institute, as well as Chairman of the Board of Publicolor, a nonprofit youth development organization that uses design-based programs to engage at-risk students in education leading to college and a career.
In 2019, Kohn published his memoir, The World by Design: The Story of a Global Architecture Firm, written with Clifford Pearson. The book explains how he helped build one of the most successful architecture firms in the world, offering inspiring lessons on business leadership and design innovation that can be applied to many fields.
Kohn is survived by his wife, Barbara, sons Steven and Brian, his daughter Laurie, and nine grandchildren.
About Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) is one of the world’s preeminent architecture firms, providing architecture, interior, programming, and master planning services for clients that include some of the most forward-thinking developers, corporations, entrepreneurs, and institutions in the United States and around the world. The firm’s extensive portfolio spans more than 40 countries and includes a wide range of projects from office and residential buildings to civic and cultural spaces to educational facilities.
KPF endeavors to design lasting architectural solutions that mitigate their lifecycle impact on environmental resources and that protect and enhance the well-being of the communities they serve. The firm has joined the AIA, RIBA, and many of its peers in a joint effort to develop the capabilities to design and deliver carbon-neutral buildings by 2030.