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The Best Commercial Architects in New York City

December 21, 2017 18 Min Read


The New York City skyline is an emblem of industry, commerce, and our ability to push the limits of engineering and design. The landscape is punctuated by Art Deco, Gothic, and contemporary towers that reflect the melange of individuals who pass through their grand lobbies and green plazas. Though the design firms behind the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building are no more, other practices — some with a long history and others with less than a decade under their belts — are designing the structures that will one day define the city. Here are the top firms shaping New York City’s future.

Top Architects

Bjarke Ingels Group

Bjarke Ingels

AIA Housing Award,
AIA New York Merit Award,
Architizer Firm of the Year Award,
Wall Street Journal Architectural Innovator of the Year Award

61 Broadway, Suite 3300, New York, NY 10006

About Bjarke Ingels Group

Sometimes referred to as “BIG,” the Bjarke Ingels Group is led by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, once regarded by Time Magazine among its list of “100 Most Influential People.” Since establishing Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) in 2005, Ingels and his team, from their offices in Copenhagen, London, and New York, have earned a reputation for eco-conscious, innovative designs that push the boundaries of the architectural paradigms. BIG’s international portfolio of skyscrapers, museums, residential enclaves, and civic projects formed the backbone of an episode of Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design. BIG has earned an Architizer Firm of the Year Award and a Wall Street Journal Architectural Innovator of the Year Award. Aside from its architects, the firm is made up of designers, urbanists, landscape professionals, interior and product designers, researchers, and inventors; all greatly contribute to the firm’s image of being a leader in contemporary design and construction.

Featured Projects

BIG didn’t hold back for its first New York building, Via 57 West. The 35-story, pyramid-shaped building draws second glances and turned heads from anyone driving down the West Side Highway, with walls carved out with terraces and a distinctive pointed top piercing the boxy skyline. The unique design draws on the surrounding highrises and the security and efficiency of a European perimeter block. The design for VIA 57 West garnered more than a dozen awards, including an AIA Housing Award, AIA New York Merit Award for Future Project, the Interior Design Silver Award for Residential Architect, and ENR New York Best Residential Project. With that recognition behind them, BIG put in a bid and won the contract to redesign 2 World Trade Center after developers and prospective clients wanted a change for the original Foster & Partners design. The tower, located at 200 Greenwich Street, is designed to rise 1,340 feet above the 9/11 Memorial Park, as the final building in the rehabilitation of the site. Its seven, stacked volumes will literally and figuratively reflect the contemporary highrises and historical low-rises in the surrounding neighborhoods of Financial District and TriBeCa. Combined, the terraces on each volume comprise 38k square feet of green space. The lobby’s connection to the World Trade Center transit hub ensures the area will once again be a fully connected nerve center of the city.


Art Genler
Drue Gensler
Robin Klehr Avia
Joseph Brancato

AIA NYS Firm of the Year

1700 Broadway, Suite 400, New York, NY 10019

About Gensler

Art and Drue Gensler established their firm in San Francisco in 1965 and has since grown it to become a global firm with its stronghold in New York. It has had the privilege of being featured in publications like Architectural Record, ENR, and Building Design + Construction in addition to winning various distinctions from the AIA. The AIA New York State named Gensler Firm of the Year in 2014 while the Commercial Observer listed it among the most noteworthy firms shaping New York. In 2016, Gensler pulled in nearly $170M in revenue from New York contracts alone, contributing to their reported $1.2B in global revenue for the year. The firm’s global community includes over 6,000 professionals, who together collectively shape the firm’s expertise. The firm is also noted for its sustainability efforts, noting that its designs are defined by its highly efficient elements and innovative techniques. The firm has worked on countless projects that have proven to be both vital and unique.

Featured Projects

JetBlue Airways retained Gensler to design their terminal at JFK Int’l Airport, the airline’s first. Terminal 5 reflects JetBlue’s business model and customer profiles, with a design that makes it easy for passengers to find their way to one of the 26 gates or to navigate the 640k-square-foot space to find food and drinks. For the exterior, Gensler wanted the terminal to complement the historic, Eero Saarinen design of the adjacent Terminal 6. Terminal 5’s curved rooflines are a nod to the mid-century gull wings of the 1962 landmark. Wide berths at each gate allow JetBlue planes to maneuver easily, cutting down on unnecessary delays. Also a commercial design firm, Gensler designed 25 Kent, based on a concept by Hollwich Kushner. The development is the first ground-up commercial project in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in more than 60 years. The design echoes the neighborhood’s industrial history but provides layouts and conveniences for the most progressive of technology companies.

Hill West Architects

Stephen Hill
David West

11 Broadway, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10004

About Hill West Architects

Hill West Architects is a renowned architectural firm best known for its contributions to the New York City skyline. It is led by L. Stephen Hill and David West, who co-founded the company in 2008 with now-retired architect Alan Goldstein. The firm is made up of over 120 talented and skilled architects and professionals who work closely together to design some of the city’s best high-rise residential, hospitality, retail, and office structures. It has also worked on a variety of multi-use complexes. The firm’s processes highlights the importance of taking into account contexts, environments, and culture into a project’s overall design. Given all of these, it comes as no surprise that the firm has worked on some of New York’s most important projects.

Featured Projects

Hill West collaborated with Swiss firm Herzog & De Meuron to design 56 Leonard Street, a 60-story residential tower known for its distinctive, Jenga-like outline. Both beautiful and functional, the building offers 145 residences and 17k square feet of luxury amenities. Units hit the market at prices ranging from $3.5M to $50M. 56 Leonard Street is the tallest building in TriBeCa. Sky, another luxury tower from the minds of Hill West, is a glass-skinned, 60-story edifice. 42nd Street unfolds from the base of the $850M building like a red carpet, leading to a grand lobby anchored by a Yayoi Kusama sculpture and fountain. Each of the 1,175 rental units comes with access to a Turkish bath and a full-sized basketball court. The latter feature has become a big draw for professional athlete tenants, like Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks.

Kohn, Pedersen, Fox Associates

James von Klemperer
A. Eugene Kohn
William Pedersen and Sheldon Fox

World Architecture Festival Future Civic Project of the Year

11 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036

About Kohn, Pedersen, Fox Associates

Kohn, Pedersen, Fox’s additions to the New York City skyline have earned several AIA National and AIA New York State Design Awards. An ENR and ENR New York Top Design Firm, the company earned over $28M in regional design revenue in 2016. President and Design Principal James von Klemperer, FAIA, RIBA, began his career with KPF in 1983. The team has since doubled in size to over 500 staffers working out of headquarters in Midtown, and five more in Europe and Asia. One of KPF’s first projects after incorporating in 1976 was repurposing a West Side armory to house studios and offices for ABC. Current Chairman A. Eugene Kohn, and co-founders William Pedersen and Sheldon Fox helmed the project.

Featured Projects

Kohn, Pedersen, Fox projects are changing the landscape of New York City as we know it. The firm’s best work is embodied by its 20 Hudson Yards project. Spanning over a million square feet, 20 Hudson Yards is primarily a mixed-setting and houses over a hundred carefully curated collections of shops and top brands. It is home to New York City’s first Neiman Marcus store and has its own iterations of some of the area’s finest eateries, a complex called The Restaurants, which brings together New York’s most celebrated cuisine. The project features an 85-foot high central atrium defined on its west side by an extravagant James Carpenter designed glass wall display.

Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

I.M. Pei
Eason H. Leonard
Henry N. Cobb

AIA Honor Awards,
AIA Firm Awards,
Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award,
Building Stone Institute Tucker Design Award

88 Pine Street, New York, NY 10005

About Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Headquartered in New York, City, Pei Cobb Freed and Partners is an international architectural firm with over six decades of industry experience. It was founded in 1955 and is led by I.M. Pei, Eason H. Leonard, and Henry N. Cobb. The firm became Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in 1989 and has since won over 200 design awards, including 24 AIA Honor Awards, AIA awards, AIA NYS Firm Awards, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Society of Architects. Though the firm’s eight partners and 100 designers have completed over 250 projects around the globe, many of the most notable are in New York: The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, the Four Seasons Hotel, The Plaza, and New York University’s University Plaza. The firm has extensive experience in working with major corporations, and its portfolio includes a rich variety of important educational, cultural, civic, and religious institutions. It also offers a full range of services, making its process holistic and comprehensive.

Featured Projects

Pei Cobb Freed and Partners designed the Goldman Sachs global headquarters at 200 West Street. The $2.1B office tower allowed the massive investment banking firm to consolidate a number of New York offices into one campus. The design takes into account the building’s Lower Manhattan site, between the World Trade Center and Battery Park City, connecting the neighborhoods via a glass-covered walkway and public space. Angular on the side facing into the city grid and bowed on the Hudson Riverside, the 2.1M-square-foot, 45-story tower is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certified. The design for the tower earned recognition from AIA NYC and an Emporis Skyscraper Award. 7 Bryant Park is another striking addition to a business center. Designed to adhere to zoning mandates while still providing ample generous office floor plates, the building consists of a nine-floor podium beneath a set back 21-story tower. The design had a $150M construction budget and won Engineering News-Record New York’s Project of the Year. The volumes are connected by two opposing, conical cutouts, whose pinnacles touch where the volumes meet, adding dynamism to the building’s park-level aesthetic. Among design awards for 7 Bryant Park are a Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award, ENR New York Best Office Building, and the Building Stone Institute Tucker Design Award.

Perkins Eastman

Bradford Perkins
Mary-Jean Eastman

Greater New York Construction User Council Healthcare Environment Award,
American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of New York Engineering Excellence Award,
Interior Design Best of Year Merit Award,
AIA NY Design Merit Award

115 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

About Perkins Eastman

Bradford Perkins, Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) and Member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (MRAIC) and the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), and Mary-Jean Eastman, FAIA, MRAIC, and member of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) founded Perkins Eastman in 1981 after leaving their positions at Perkins + Will and reorganizing their initial firm, Attia Perkins. Decades Perkins Eastman designs have been recognized by AIA New York State, AIA New York City, and Interior Design. They have also placed among the top design firms on the Engineering News-Record and the Engineering News-Record New York lists. Perkins is currently chairman of the firm; Eastman is the principal and executive director. The firm, on the other hand, has since grown to become a global leader in architecture and is now manned by over a thousand employees and operates out of 17 interdisciplinary offices across the globe.

Featured Projects

One of among New York City’s many notable healthcare facilities, Memorial Sloan-Kettering is the pinnacle hub for cancer treatment and research. Perkins Eastman designed the hospital’s Josie Robertson Surgery Center, a 179K-square-foot facility that provides technologically advanced surgical care. A glass curtain wall façade brings scenic views of the Queensboro bridge into the outpatient experience. The 16-story building houses 12 robotic, surgery-ready operating rooms, private prep and recovery spaces, and stress-relieving amenities like its rooftop garden. The innovative and practical design earned Perkins Eastman a Healthcare Environment Award, an Outstanding Project recognition from The Greater New York Construction User Council (GNYCUC), and a Healthcare Design Showcase Honorable Mention. Also a leader in projects for public spaces, Perkins Eastman designed the now-iconic Times Square TKTS Booth. Part of the redevelopment of Father Duffy Square, the glass and fiberglass structure draws long lines of theater-goers hoping to snag discount tickets to Broadway shows. The compact ticket office uses radiant panels and an air handler to achieve optimal temperatures, regardless of the weather. Not just a point of sale, the booth sits beneath red, LED-illuminated steps that function as seating for many a weary tourist. The eye-catching design won an American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of New York, Engineering Excellence Award, an Interior Design Best of Year Merit Award in the Public Spaces/Outdoor category, and an AIA NY Design Merit Award in Architecture.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Renzo Piano

27 Washington Street, New York, NY 10014

About Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Renzo Piano Building Workshop designs international landmarks, from the Centre Pompidou to The Shard in London. Having established offices in Genoa, Paris, and New York, Chairman and Founding Partner Renzo Piano and the nine other partners leading the firm have placed themselves at the center of urban design. Since incorporating in 1981, the Renzo Piano Building Workshop staff has grown to 150 design professionals. Mr. Piano has earned the Royal Gold Medal, the Kyoto Prize, and the Pritzker Prize, among many other design honors. With its team having design experience abroad in Europe, the firm uses the latest building and design approaches and is capable of handling any specific aesthetic challenges that may arise. The team assists clients throughout the entire process from start to finish. It also offers a full range of architectural and design services, as well as interior, town, and urban design work. Since its inception, the firm has completed over 140 projects, most of which are recognizable and are regarded as some of the city’s most important landmarks.

Featured Projects

When the Whitney Museum of American Art vacated its Marcel Breuer-designed, brutalist home on the Upper East Side, the collection of 19k works moved downtown. Their new home designed by Renzo Piano, The Whitney Museum at Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District, is an eight-story building clad in blue-grey enamel steel panels. Its asymmetry defies the rigid skyline, much the way the nearby Highline dares to make an urban green space of an abandoned railroad. On the East side of the building, stepped terraces and walkways face the city. The top floor houses a cafe and studio gallery lit by daylight pouring through a sawtooth skylight system. The four floors beneath house an amazing 50k square feet of gallery space, including a column-free fifth level, a feat of engineering that allows for wildly flexible exhibition design. Another downtown project, 565 Broome, is a 30-story residential tower that will bring a soaring height to the traditionally low-rise SoHo. Renzo Piano Building Workshop collaborated with SLCE and RDAI to design a luxury residence, which houses a 55-foot swimming pool. With floor-to-ceiling windows — including curved panels on corner units — joined by thin mullions, tenants will have panoramic views of the city and the river.

Richard Meier & Partners Architects

Richard Meier
James R. Crawford
Bernhard Karpf
Vivia Lee
Reynolds Logan
Michael Palladino
Dukho Yeon

AIA Honors Awards

475 10th Avenue #6, New York, NY 10018

About Richard Meier & Partners Architects

Co-founder and Managing Partner Richard Meier, FAIA and Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (FRIBA), established his architecture firm in 1963 after studying architecture at Cornell University. Richard Meier, along with his six partners — James R. Crawford, Bernhard Karpf, Vivia Lee, Reynolds Logan, Michael Palladino, and Dukho Yeon — equipped Richard Meier & Partners Architects’ dual-coast practice to receive 30 Honors Awards from the AIA, as well as more than 50 from AIA New York and other regional chapters. The firm’s portfolio showcases projects completed in over 18 countries, with its body of work being instantly recognizable for its fine expertise for modern architecture. It is also known for creative solutions and its ability to work on a wide range of building types, not just commercial buildings. Some of these projects include cultural facilities, government offices, libraries, and educational buildings.

Featured Projects

Richard Meier and Partners Architects designed 685 First Avenue, a 42-story tower of obsidian glass that is interrupted only by a terrace at its midpoint. For all 556 units, the dark façade gives tenants privacy from residents of neighboring towers in Turtle Bay. The cutout at the terrace separates rental and condo units. Among the luxury amenities are a game room, a fitness center, and a 70-foot lap pool. Tenants will enjoy a below-ground, 110-car garage and quick access to ground floor retail spaces.

SHoP Architects

Christopher Sharples
Coren Sharples
William Sharples
Gregg Pasquarelli
John Cerone
Angelica Trevino Baccon
Dana Getman

Fast Company Most Innovative Architecture Firm in the World,
Smithsonian/Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Architecture

233 Broadway, New York, NY 10279

About SHoP Architects

Five principals are at the helm of SHoP architects — twins Christopher and William Sharples, William’s wife Coren Sharples, and couple Kimberly Holden and Greg Pasquarelli. The firm’s name is a mashup of their last initials. Formed in 1996, the relatively young practice has gained attention for its prominent New York City designs, including the Domino Sugar Refinery development in Williamsburg, The Steinway Tower in Midtown, and a reimagined South Street Seaport. Fast Company called SHoP Architects the “Most Innovative Architecture Firm in the World;” Smithsonian/Cooper Hewitt honored them with a National Design Award for Architecture. The firm makes use of an interdisciplinary approach on each of its projects and has had the opportunity to work on a variety of interesting projects.

Featured Projects

The American Copper Buildings by SHoP brings a sculptural focal point to the Manhattan skyline. The site in Kips Bay, near the United Nations, is home to two copper-clad towers, angled toward each other in the middle and connected by the highest sky-bridge in Manhattan, the first of its kind to be built in decades. Residents of both towers share access to the lap pool and lounge, housed in the bridge. The roof of the east tower offers the same amenities in the open air. Taking into account the risk of flooding to waterfront property, the buildings have a forward-thinking, self-sufficient energy system. The Barclays Center, another SHoP design, also makes use of a metal façade. The urban sports arena and concert venue, home to the Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders, is a glazed ground-level story topped with a thirty-foot-high canopy, surrounded by a prismatic lattice of 12k pre-weathered steel panels. The $1B, 675k-square-foot building in Prospect Heights has no dedicated parking but is connected to a $76M public transit hub.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Mustafa K. Abadan (Consulting Partner)
Stephen Apking (Consulting Partner)
Chris Cooper (Design Partner)
Laura Ettelman (Managing Partner)
T.J. Gottesdiener (Consulting Partner)
Gary Haney (Consulting Partner)
Colin Koop (Design Partner)
Kenneth A. Lewis (Managing Partner)

AIA Architecture Firm Award,
AIA 25-Year Award,
AIA Regional & Urban Design Award,
AIA National Honor Award for Architecture,
AIA National Honor Award for Interior Architecture

7 World Trade Center 250 Greenwich Street New York, NY 10007

About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is a collective of architects, engineers, urban planners, and interior designers that has been at the vanguard of the profession for more than 80 years. With offices in Manhattan since 1937, some of its most prominent work has been designed and built in New York City.
The firm has spent two decades designing and planning the future of the West Side of Midtown Manhattan. Between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, SOM has played a leading role in the design of the monumental civic project to convert the 1913 James A. Farley Post Office into the new Daniel Patrick Moynihan Station. The new train hall, with a dramatic skylight, will restore the lost grandeur of the original Pennsylvania Station. It will also anchor the burgeoning development further to the west, starting with the Manhattan West Development on Ninth Avenue. Master planned by SOM, Manhattan West is a new, seven-million-square foot neighborhood built almost entirely above active railroad tracks. The firm designed all four of the mixed-use development’s towers, and the project is on pace for completion in 2023.

Featured Projects

SOM is also designing 4 Hudson Square – The Walt Disney Company’s new headquarters in New York – as well as the renovation and restoration of the Waldorf Astoria, a project that will renew the splendor of one of the world’s most iconic hotels. In between, construction is underway on 1245 Broadway and 28th Street and Seventh Avenue – two boutique office buildings that will integrate seamlessly with their neighborhoods in the NoMad district and Chelsea.
Each of these projects build upon the firm’s extensive legacy in New York City, from the completion of Lever House in 1952 to the design and construction of One World Trade Center. Lever House, which brought the International Style of office design to the United States, was the first modernist landmark designated by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Decades later, One World Trade Center rose 1,776 feet to become the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and an instant New York icon.
Throughout its history, SOM has completed more than 10,000 projects across the world, and has earned more than 2,000 design awards. It is the only firm to date to have twice won the AIA Architecture Firm Award, as well as the only firm to have six projects win the AIA Twenty-five Year Award, which recognizes architecture that has stood the test of time.


  • Shahe Demirdjian

    Shahe is an Editor at New York City Architects with around four years of experience as a writer and editor in the construction space. Shahe has always had a huge interest in commercial/residential construction and real estate. On top of his experience at New York City Architects, he has two years of experience as a Construction Partner Specialist at BuildZoom and six years of experience as a licensed real estate agent. In his work, he takes advantage of his expertise to take complex technical jargon from those realms and transform them into accessible, engaging content, blending his business administration expertise with a degree from Arizona State University with his experiential insights. Expertise: Architecture, Home Design and Build, Home Remodeling Key Highlights: Arizona Real Estate - Licensed Salesperson Education: Arizona State University - Bachelors in Business Administration

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