1,600 people in 24 cities living 4 values for 1 goal:
To use design to help our clients succeed.

We create exceptional environments that meet our clients' most complex design challenges.

We inspire people through our work by expressing timeless cultural, organizational and personal values.

We connect people and place with ideas that come from many minds and imaginations.

We care about serving our clients, enriching lives, improving communities and protecting our natural environment through design.

We are a global architecture, design, engineering and planning firm.

60+ Years of Design + Innovation

60+ Years of Design + Innovation

HOK Is Founded

HOK Is Founded

In 1955, George Hellmuth recruits Gyo Obata and George Kassabaum to form an architectural firm in St. Louis with a vision for using design to help clients succeed and creating places that enrich people’s lives. George Hellmuth incorporates this new firm as Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, Inc. (HOK), a Missouri corporation with 26 employees. He grants ownership shares to Gyo and George Kassabaum and keeps a majority for himself. Ten years later, George Hellmuth increases the ownership interests of Gyo and George Kassabaum to make each of the three principals equal owners. Some stock shares are held in reserve for future key employees.

George Hellmuth, while director of marketing at Smith, Hinchman and Grylls (SHG), had written a document on how to grow a successful practice for a large architect-engineer firm. In 1955, he embraces the document for Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum. Referred to as his blueprint for a successful design firm, George’s document includes thoughts on the importance of obtaining business from large clients who have work to perform in several parts of the world as well as the benefit of developing specialty areas of design practice.

Highlights of George’s plan for a “Recession Proof Office:”

  • Don’t depend on one building type. To cushion a drop in demand for any one specialty develop a battery of them: schools, hospitals, libraries, prisons, industrial buildings, shopping centers and office buildings.
  • Diversify in locations also – go where the work can be found.
  • Expand into full-service related specialties – landscape design, city planning, interior design, industrial design and graphic design.
  • Set up a systematic marketing group to identify growing markets and contact client prospects early.
  • Put effort (and money) into professional public relations and photography, key to recognition in the profession – the only way to achieve a dominant position and a solid brand image.
  • Organize the office for maximum efficiency by giving each of three major partners distinct and complementary functions, i.e., design, production and marketing.
  • Be prepared to quickly staff a large project to accommodate clients.

The group also brings with them a design philosophy that Gyo had helped craft:

“Buildings should be designed around people, and for people: buildings can be and must be more than an economic and efficient functioning machine. We believe that buildings must be designed to provide qualities of beauty both inside and out: qualities that contribute to people’s sense of well-being and happiness.”