US architect passed away this week following year-long battle with cancer

Kohn Pederson Fox (KPF) co-founder A Eugene Kohn has died from cancer at the age of 92.

Kohn died yesterday following a year-long battle with the disease. KPF said in a statement that his “spirit will live on in the firm that he loved, and his commitment to design excellence, teamwork, and mentorship will continue to inform KPF’s values”.

“With characteristic optimism, diplomacy, and unfailing good will, he brought together designers and engineers, clients and civic leaders to achieve significant projects that have changed our cities around the world for the better,” the firm added.

01_A. Eugene Kohn_Credit KPF

Source: KPF

Gene Kohn has died aged 92 following a battle with cancer

The practice, which Kohn co-founded in 1976 with William Pedersen and Sheldon Fox, grew to become one of the largest architecture firms in the world, designing at one point six of the world’s 12 tallest towers, including the Shanghai World Financial Center and Hong Kong’s International Commerce Centre. 

It also designed Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, the World Bank in Washington DC, One Vanderbilt in New York, and the reinvigoration of Covent Garden in London, projects which KPF president James von Klemperer said would not have happened without Kohn’s “easy charm and focused intensity”.

“Gene was universally respected in the community for his ability to achieve consensus,” said von Klemperer. “His seemingly limitless interest in other human beings gave him powerful insights into the social aspect of building programs and larger urban agendas.”

“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, counselling our staff, has been even greater.”

07_Shelley Fox, Bill Pedersen, Gene_Kohn_Credit KPF

Source: KPF

KPF founders Shelley Fox, Bill Pedersen and Gene Kohn pictured in the 1980s

Speaking about the early goals for KPF, Kohn once stated that he, Pederson and Fox “liked the idea of creating something bigger than the three of us that would live longer than any of us”. 

Kohn was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and served as president of the AIA New York City Chapter. He was also a member of RIBA, the Japan Institute of Architects and an honorary member of the Fellows of the Philippine Institute.

He was born in 1930 and raised in Philadelphia, studying at the University of Pennsylvania where he was a student of Louis Kahn, whose use of powerful geometries informed his view of architecture. 

Kohn served in the US Navy on active duty for three years between his BA and MA degrees, and for five years on reserve duty, retiring as a lieutenant commander.

Last month, the practice opened an office in Shenzhen, its third in China. The firm, which is headquartered in New York, now has nine bases worldwide – including London.

10_Gene Kohn Navy_Courtesy KPF

Source: KPF

Kohn served in the US Navy for a total of eight years

Its recent projects in the UK include a pair of 20-storey and 23-storey life sciences towers in Canary Wharf and London Bridge, and a 36-storey office tower in Shoreditch. It also won a competition last year to design a flagship office block in Milan’s Porta Romana regeneration zone.

Kohn is survived by his wife Barbara, sons Steven and Brian, daughter Laurie and nine grandchildren.