June 1, 2014

Patrick McConnell: 1994 Hall of Fame Inductee

Patrick McConnell

To Patrick McConnell, senior interior designer and former associate partner of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, interior space was not about collections of furniture as objects, but rather the assiduous refinement and discovery of appropriate room proportions, the reduction of elements and colors to produce the ultimate architectural perfection. One of his favorite rooms for its straightforward simplicity, its perfectly scaled proportions and use of light, was always the penthouse apartment gallery of Banque Lambert in Brussels, designed in 1965 by Davis Allen of SOM.

McConnell graduated from the architecture school of the Illinois Institute of Technology, under the tutelage of Mies’ protegés. This seminal experience trained his eye to see and his mind to refine. He took a job at SOM in Chicago after graduation, working in the interiors department, which, at the time, was frankly of no interest to him. However, under the guidance of Don Powell and Bruce Graham, he quickly changed his mind; interiors were personal, immediate and direct. The GF Furniture showroom in Chicago, Banco de Occidente in Guatemala City and United Gulf Bank in Bahrain are projects that McConnell worked on at SOM, and which he recalled as important in his career, but for different reasons: GF was about proportion and light – a simple sculptured space of white drywall – while the other two projects brought together indigenous cultural and natural elements as well as crafts from the countries that they were created in and for. During his tenure at SOM, McConnell was also an instructor in the interior design department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He received numerous awards.

Although his experience at Skidmore was nothing less than wonderful, he said, McConnell decided to leave the fold in 1992 in order to pursue a smaller, hands-on career on his own (while still maintaining a consulting relationship with SOM). To McConnell, the business of design had changed over the years, with a greater emphasis placed on marketing and sales. However, the art of design remained the same; still about refinement. By going out on his own, he hoped to more intimately pursue the latter. For all the conceptual ideas he may have had about design, it was only through his pencil and a straight edge – the actual act of drawing, drawing again and again and again – that McConnell made his way through space.

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