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Gyo Obata
Gyo Obata in 2005.jpg
Gyo Obata in 2005
Born February 28, 1923(1923-02-28) (age 96)
San Francisco, California, U.S
Occupation Architect

Gyo Obata (born February 28, 1923) is an American architect, the son of painter Chiura Obata and his wife, Haruko Obata, a floral designer. In 1955, he co-founded global architectural firm HOK (formerly Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum). He lives in St. Louis, Missouri and still works in HOK's St. Louis office. He has designed several notable buildings, including the McDonnell Planetarium at the Saint Louis Science Center, the Independence Temple of the Community of Christ church and the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.


Gyo Obata

Gyo Obata (1980)

Obata was born and raised in San Francisco. Due to his family's Japanese heritage, he was nearly interned with other Japanese-Americans during World War II. Though his family was sent to an internment camp, he avoided it by leaving the School of Architecture at the University of California-Berkeley to study architecture at Washington University in St. Louis the only university in the United States willing to accept Japanese nationals at that time. He earned his bachelor of architecture degree there in 1945.

He then studied under master Finnish architect Eero Saarinen at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, receiving his master's degree in architecture and urban design in 1946.

After serving in the U.S. Army from 1946–1947 and working as an architect in the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill from 1947–1951, Obata returned to St. Louis in 1951 to join the firm of Minoru Yamasaki, designer of the World Trade Center towers. Four years later, in 1955, he joined architects George Hellmuth and George Kassabaum in establishing the St. Louis-based architecture firm Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum.

Due in part to Obata's prowess and growing reputation, the firm achieved global renown, and Obata himself has won numerous awards for his designs. Today, HOK has more than 1,800 employees in 23 offices worldwide.

In 2010, Obata was featured in a book written by Marlene Ann Birkman and published by The Images Publishing Group titled, Gyo Obata: Architect | Clients | Reflections.[1] The book features 30 of Obata's projects (and clients) spanning five decades.

Obata's design philosophy is "to provide spaces which are not only functional, but also enhance the quality of life for those who work and live in them."[2] In Gyo Obata: Architect | Clients | Reflections, he says that, "The language that architects use to define space is daylight. Each project offers new potential for discovery, for understanding the site and program, and an opportunity to do a thoughtfully designed building that will bring meaning and enjoyment to the people who will occupy it."[1]



The James S. McDonnell Planetarium, thin-shell and hyperboloid structure by Gyo Obata, one component of the St. Louis Science Center campus

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Kellogg World Headquarters (battlecreekcvb) 001

Kellogg Company Headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan

Independence - RLDS Temple 02

Independence Temple in Independence, Missouri

Riverboat 136

Great American Tower at Queen City Square in Cincinnati, Ohio

Obata's national and international projects include:

St. Louis-area projects include:

  • Anthony's Restaurant and Bar, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine Center for Advanced Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Boatmen's Tower, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Boeing Leadership Center, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Centene Plaza, Clayton, Missouri
  • Cervantes Convention Center and Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Congregation Bnai' Amoona Synagogue, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Forsythe Plaza, Clayton, Missouri
  • James S. McDonnell Planetarium at the St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Lindell Terrace Apartments (now Lindell Terrace Condominium), St. Louis, Missouri
  • Metropolitan Square, St. Louis, Missouri- Current location of HOK St. Louis office
  • Missouri History Museum Emerson Center, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Obata Residence, St. Louis, Missouri
  • One Bell Center, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Priory Chapel (Saint Louis Abbey Church), St. Louis, Missouri
  • Saint Louis Zoo Children's Zoo and The Living World, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Campus,[3] Edwardsville, Illinois
  • St. Louis Union Station Renovation and Redevelopment, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Thomas F. Eagleton United States Courthouse, St. Louis, Missouri, United States
  • Washington University School of Medicine Farrell Learning and Teaching Center, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Western Illinois University Malpass Library, Macomb, Illinois

Awards and recognitionEdit

  • Elected a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects (1969).
  • Washington University in St. Louis Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts (1990).
  • Advisory Council for the Presidio in San Francisco (1991).
  • University of Missouri-St. Louis Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts (1991).
  • Inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame [4] (1992).
  • First Howard A. Friedman Visiting Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley (1992).
  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Honorary Doctorate (1999).
  • American Institute of Architects St. Louis Gold Award Honor (2002).
  • Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts from the Japanese American National Museum (2004).
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from the St. Louis Arts and Education Council (2008).
  • Washington University in St. Louis Dean's Medal for the Sam Fox Awards for Distinction (2008).


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Gyo Obata: Architect – Clients – Reflections". Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  2. "Interview with Gyo Obata, Professional Architect', "," February 2, 2006
  3. Meridian, Edward. SIUE, the First 50 Years:Transforming a Region. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, 2007, p. 73.
  4. St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". Retrieved 25 April 2013. 

External linksEdit

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