Gordon Gill – Architect

The architect Gordon Gill FAIA was born in Jamaica.  At age 11 he moved to Canada with his family.  He completed his undergraduate studies in Canada and gained 2 Master degrees in the United States of America.  In 2019 he was awarded a Doctorate of Technology from the University Of Technology, Jamaica.

Gordon Gill FAIA

Gordon held positions of Associate Partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and Director of Design at VOA Associates.  In 2006 three senior SOM Chicago practice members, namely Adrian Smith, Gordon Gill and Robert Forest formed Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG). 

Gordon’s architectural works include:

  • Design of the world’s first net zero-energy skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower, Guangzhou, China (designed at SOM Chicago),
  • World’s first large-scale positive energy building, Masdar Headquarters, Abu Dhabi
  • World’s tallest tower, Kingdom Tower in Jeddah Saudi Arabia
  • Design of Astana Expo 2017 and its sustainable legacy community for Astana, Kazakhstan
  • Performing arts centres, museums, strategic carbon planning and urban master plans across the globe. 
Kingdom Tower, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

His landmark projects pursue energy independence by harnessing the power of natural forces on site and striking a balance with their environmental contexts.

Gordon is one of the world’s foremost exponents of performance based architecture.  His approach is based on an ecologically conscious philosophy that sets new standards for the relationships between the built and natural environment. His buildings and urban projects have transformed cityscapes and defined as well as restored city centers around the world.

Gordon explains that his firm will work on almost any scale project if it has a challenge and a quality to it.  They look for the intellectual challenge behind the design.

Gordon says that AS+GG has won bids simply by saying that a site should remain empty.  He comments that clients have a preconception that as architects, if they touch something they are going to put a building there.  AS+GG are problem-solvers who are architects, so they approach problems a little differently from most.  They reason that if the solution is physical, they express themselves through architecture.  Sometimes the solution is not physical, or if it is physical it’s not a building.  So the solution can be a park.

Gordon views a commission as an invitation to a dialogue.  Just as the client has a brief, so does he, with a set of expectations for his own work.  He feels that his job is to take the client to a place they never expected, within the context of the brief.

AS+GG tell people all the time, they are not sales people.  They are not trying to sell or convince the client of anything.  What they try to do is present the client a set of rational analyses, that speak to problems or issues that the client has as it relates to their brief.  Then they tell the client how they think the problem could be solved within the context of the client’s needs.  With this approach they offer the client something that is hopefully superior to what the client expected from the brief.  If there is agree, then they have a project.

On the other hand if the client does not agree as they go through the analyses, then AS+GG can adjust how they think about the client’s problem.  But in the end it is a conversation about the client’s expectations.

Jamaica New Houses of Parliament

With this approach, no wonder Gordon was selected by Jamaica as the competition patron for the Jamaica Houses of Parliament design submissions.

Jamaica launched the competition in May 2018 to find a firm of architects to design the 160,000-square-foot building that will house both the legislative and executive branches of government.  Described as the most significant structure to be built in the history of Jamaica, the new Houses of Parliament building will occupy a place of prominence at National Heroes Park in Kingston.

To be eligible for consideration to design the structure, applying firms had to:

  • Be led by a citizen of Jamaica, residing locally or abroad, who is also a registered and licensed Jamaican architect and capable of being the project’s architect of record;
  • Comprise of at least 50 percent Jamaican citizens or persons of Jamaican heritage. 

In March 2019 the winning design for the structure, aptly named ‘Out of Many, One People,’ was announced.  Construction is expected to start in 2021. 

Listen to Gordon as he tells his story in his own words.

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