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Donald Stark

Senior Architect Don Stark, AIA designed the sophisticated exterior wall systems for Masdar Headquarters, the world’s first mixed-use, positive-energy building and for the upscale Waldorf-Astoria in Beijing.

At AS+GG Don is currently working on a confidential mixed-use tower in New York City. Previously he worked on Kingdom Tower, the world’s next tallest building and lead the design efforts for 1 Park Avenue, a supertall tower and signature feature of the Jumeirah Gardens development in Dubai.

Prior to joining AS+GG in 2008, Don worked for nearly two decades at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s offices in New York and Chicago, where he served as staff architect, senior design architect, associate architect, project architect and, mostly recently, studio head. His projects at SOM included the State Street Renovation in Chicago, a research facility at the University of North Carolina; a major renovation of General Motors Headquarters in Detroit; and an analysis of the exterior wall of Mies van der Rohe’s Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago.

Don was also involved in award-winning collaborations with Adrian Smith, then a design partner at SOM, on two major projects in China—the Posts and Telecommunications Building in Xiamen and Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai—and on the redevelopment of Chicago’s State Street commercial district.


Pratt Institute School of Architecture, Bachelor of Architecture, with honors, 1987


American Institute of Architects
Friends of the Park, Chicago (advisor)
Edgewater Community Council, Chicago

Awards + Honors

AIA Chicago, Divine Detail Award, Waldorf Astoria Beijing Bronze Facade, 2017
LEAF Awards, Hospitality Building of the Year, Waldorf Astoria Beijing, 2016
AIA Chicago, Distinguished Building Award, Citation of Merit, Waldorf Astoria Beijing, 2015
The Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Award, Waldorf Astoria Beijing, 2015
HD Awards, Winner, Hotel Luxury/Upscale, Waldorf Astoria Beijing, 2015
Civic Trust Awards, Civic Trust Award, Waldorf Astoria Beijing, 2015
AIA Middle East, Non-Built Category, Merit Award, Kingdom Tower, 2014
International Property Awards, Arabian Property Award for Architecture, Middle East Region, Masdar Headquarters, 2010
Middle East Architect Awards, Green Project of the Year, Masdar Headquarters, 2008
Cityscape Architectural Awards, Environmental Award, Masdar Headquarters, 2008
Construction Week Awards, Sustainable Design Award, Masdar Headquarters, 2008
Urban Land Institute, Award for Excellence: The Americas, General Motors Renaissance Center Overall (while Project Architect at SOM), 2008
AIA Chicago Chapter, Interior Architecture Award: Citation of Merit, Peaks Resort and Spa Interiors (while Studio Head at SOM), 2008
American Society of Interior Designers Illinois Chapter, Design Excellence Award: Hospitality, Best of Show, Peaks Resort and Spa (while Studio Head at SOM), 2007
Interior Design Magazine and Hotels Magazine, Gold Key Award for Excellence in Hospitality Design: Suite, Peaks Resort and Spa (while Studio Head at SOM), 2007
Structural Engineers Association of Illinois, Most Innovative Structure Award: Award of Merit, General Motors Renaissance Center North Lobby (while Project Architect at SOM), 2007
National Council of Structural Engineers Association, Excellence in Structural Engineering: Award of Merit , General Motors Renaissance Center Overall (while Project Architect at SOM), 2006
American Council of Engineering Companies of Michigan, Engineering and Surveying Excellence Award, General Renaissance Center Overall (while Project Architect at SOM), 2005
AIA Chicago Chapter, Interior Architecture Award: Special Recognition, General Motors Renaissance Center Interiors (while Project Architect at SOM), 2001
AIA Chicago Chapter, Divine Detail Award: Special Recognition, Jin Mao Tower (while Design Team Member at SOM), 2001
World Architecture, World Architecture Award: Asia Category, Finalist, Jin Mao Tower while Design Team Member at SOM), 2001
AIA Chicago Chapter, Distinguished Building Award, Riverport Casino Center, (while Design Team Member at SOM), 1998

Major projects at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture:

Jeddah Tower
The next tallest building in the world, this multi-use Tower will feature a luxury hotel, office space, serviced apartments, luxury condominiums and the world’s highest observatory. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Beijing Waldorf-Astoria
Luxury hotel project located in the heart of downtown Beijing, China. Bronze exterior reflects the character of the site, and the super frame recalls the symmetry and  steady character of Chinese traditional architecture. Beijing, China

Masdar Headquarters 
Positive Energy building (generating more energy than it consumes) in zero-carbon, zero-waste city outside of Abu Dhabi. Project includes office and residential space, retail, transit circulation and incorporates landscaped green space. Masdar City at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

1 Park Avenue
Supertall tower with podium complex includes luxury hotel, condominiums, offices and retail. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Major projects at SOM:

University of North Carolina research facility
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2011

Dirksen Federal Building
Exterior wall analysis; Renovation of courtrooms, offices and building infrastructure in the landmark, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, mid-century modernist federal building. Chicago, Illinois, 2009

Peaks Resort and Spa
Renovation and refurbishment of luxury mountain resort, includes updated guest suites, public areas and a modern full-service spa. Telluride, Colorado, 2007

GM Renaissance Center
Master plan and remodeling for corporate occupancy of 5.5 million sf mixed-use development including headquarters facilities, hotel, retail, museum and parking. Detroit, Michigan, 2003

SOM Office Renovation
Chicago, Illinois, 2006

State Street Redevelopment
Urban design and renewal of "that great street" including lighting, subway entrances, landscaping, and paving. Coordination with the City of Chicago, public and private agencies, citizens and owners. Chicago, Illinois, 1996

Jin Mao Tower
88-story, 3 million sf (279,000 sm) multi-use complex including office, hotel and retail. Shanghai, China, 1998

Xiamen Posts and Telecommunications Building
60-story corporate headquarters with restaurant and observatory and post office facility. Xiamen, China, 1994

Don Stark on...

I enjoy my role in shaping the built environment, hoping to improve our way of life. I like encouraging people to use their imagination, incorporate new ideas, and visualize possibilities that aren't always immediately apparent. And I'm interested in all elements of design—not just of buildings, but of the entire physical environment, including how we transport ourselves, how we feed ourselves, and the various systems we use every day.

where he finds inspiration
In natural forms and systems.

his favorite "moment" in architecture
When I was a kid, I went on a grade school trip to the Guggenheim Museum in New York. I didn't know who Frank Lloyd Wright was, and I didn't know what architects did exactly, but I noticed the way the elevator went through the atrium, and I thought, "Wow, that's inspiring. I wonder how that happened?" And later I learned that that was what architects did.

his favorite city architecturally
Chicago, Singapore, New York.

his favorite thing about a collaborative design process
Encouraging individuals from all disciplines to explore new and creative ideas and trying to incorporate them holistically into a project.

his biggest accomplishment at AS+GG
Leading a design team on a supertall building.

what he'd be if he weren't an architect
My early career paths included carpentry, woodworking, residential contractor, wood-fired pottery, acoustic guitar, and geology. I would have probably developed one of those.