Book Review: ‘The World by Design’ by A. Eugene Kohn

Georgina Johnston
10 Feb 2020

‘The World by Design: The Story of a Global Architecture Firm’ tells the story of how Kohn founded Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) and turned it into a global architecture firm

Gene Kohn explains, in a series of tales, 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.  A professional memoir, The World by Design: The Story of a Global Architecture Firm traces the arc of an illustrious career; from desperately searching for that first job through to the creation of iconic skyscrapers around the world. 

Founded on July 4, 1976, Kohn Pedersen Fox quickly became a darling of the architectural press with ground-breaking buildings such as 333 Wacker Driver in Chicago, the World Bank in Washington DC, and Proctor & Gamble’s headquarters in Cincinnati.

By the early 1990s, when most architecture firms in the U.S. were struggling to survive a major recession, KPF had expanded its business to international markets with projects in London, Germany, Canada, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia. Kohn and his partners pioneered a model of global practice that has influenced architecture, design, and creative-services firms ever since. Like any other business, though, KPF has stumbled along the way and wrestled with crises. But through it all, it has remained innovative in a field that changes all the time and often favors the newest star on the horizon.

Now in its fifth decade, the firm has shaped skylines and cities around the world with iconic buildings such as the World Financial Center in Shanghai, Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong, the DZ Bank Tower in Frankfurt, the Heron Tower in London, and Hudson Yards in New York. Of the world’s 10 tallest buildings, KPF has designed five.

Forthright and engaging, Kohn has created an engaging chronicle that is both a roadmap to innovative design and a primer for business leadership. He demonstrates with humor and humility how KPF has helped change the buildings and cities where we live, work, learn, and play.

'The World by Design' is a must-read for all of those who love cities and the buildings and skylines that define them. It will encourage you to not only look up, but to think differently about our built environment and those who shape it.

S. M. Ross, chairman and founder, The Related Companies

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