June 1, 2014

Neil Frankel: 1994 Hall of Fame Inductee

Neil Frankel

Neil Frankel’s curriculum vitae comprises pages of lofty accomplishments: numerous design awards from the AIA, ASID and IBD; associations with the Architecture Society of the Art Institute of Chicago the AIA’s committee on interior architecture, the President’s task force on interior design issues, the IBD’s governing board and its New York board of directors; and, of course, the completed projects that span the reality of virtually every installation category.

From elementary school days when he found himself overwhelmed by Saarinen’s Crow Island school in Winnetka, IL, Mr. Frankel has not deviated from his passion for architecture and design. He never entertained the thought of another career. And during his professional affiliations with

Swanke Hayden Connell


Perkins & Will

, and as director of interiors of

Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill

, Chicago, he has honed a personal approach that stems from the influences of Paul Rudolph, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Japanese tradition of reduction. To paraphrase Mr. Frankel, his work is about layering and about the changes that occur as one moves through a space. Light and scale are paramount issues in his design schemes as are “a forthrightness about connections–both in plan and in detail.” He aims for clarity and an adherence to his definition of design–that an interior be a productive environment facilitating communication. Design theory as a body of knowledge not only supports Mr. Frankel’s work, but also forms the basis for published articles and his participation on juries and in round table discussions.

His goal at Skidmore, he comments, was to continue the firm’s tradition of excellence while adding to it “an atmosphere of risk, chance and learning.” Projects to benefit from the approach include a trading facility for J.P. Morgan, Chicago; a New York showroom for Wilkhahn plus a headquarters/exhibition center for the manufacturer near Hanover, Germany; the renovation/expansion of Chicago’s Orchestra Hall; expanded headquarters for longtime SOM client Kirkland & Ellis; a convention center in Hong Kong and a commercial tower in Shanghai.

Currently, Mr. Frankel has accepted a position in the graduate faculty at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee, School of Architecture and Urban Planning. In addition, he has written articles on the design environment and his work is featured in prominent publications. He served on the United States Presidential Design Awards and as Chair of The American Institute of Architects Interiors Honor Awards Jury. Nationally recognized for his design awards, he is a frequent participant in national roundtable discussions on current design issues.

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