Adrian Smith is an architect that I admire and have featured before on Bob Clark Beyond. The mind behind some of the most recognizable skyscrapers in the world, he also designed the Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates, the world’s tallest structure.

Born in Chicago in 1944, Smith completed his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Illinois, Chicago in 1969 while working at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill where he later met Gordon Gill.

In 2006, Smith and Gill co-founded the architectural firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture based in Chicago. The founding partners’ vision is to design high-performance, energy-efficient, and sustainable architecture on an international scale.

The firm designed the centerpiece of Expo 2020 in Dubai – the open space of Al Wasl Plaza, which connected the three thematic districts of Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability. The project included a garden, the trellis, a 3D visualization of the Expo 2020 logo, three office buildings, and two hotel buildings, all of which were at the heart of Expo 2020.

Adrian Smith and Gordon GIll, Photo By: MGSArchitecture
As I have just finished serving as Commissioner General for the USA at the Expo, it has been truly rewarding to witness the public’s response to the Plaza, which was designed to form a grand “urban room,” a meeting place that creates a shaded microclimate unlike anywhere else in Dubai. It served as a space where people could have conversations, and created opportunities for self-reflection and interaction among users.

Then there was the iconic Al Wasl dome. A marvel of modern architecture, the dome had the largest 360-degree projection surface in the world, and shaded and protected the central public space and the people who used it. The intricate design pushed the extreme limits of technology, architecture, and engineering, although it presented itself in a way that was simple and elegant.

The project was awarded a 2021 Green Good Design Award and a 2021 International Architecture Award by The European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum.

What inspires me about this firm is the awareness of the connection between buildings and the natural environment. While the partners’ ambitious projects push the boundaries of what is possible, they create structures that reduce negative environmental impact and in some cases, almost eliminate it. I can’t wait to see what they will accomplish next.