Chicago Lands Just One Firm in This Year’s Architecture Top 25

Chicago, once a world powerhouse of manufacturing, literature, film, music, and video games can now add architecture firms to its list of industries in which it was once a leader.

The city of Burnham, Sullivan, Mies, and occasionally Wright is barely a blip in the Architectural Record annual ranking of the world’s Top 300 Architecture Firms.

Chicago-based Perkins+Will is saddled with the task of waving the flag for the Windy City.  It comes in at number four.  The next firm on the list is NORR, way down at number 26.

Privately, some Chicago architects say they don’t believe the list is reflective of the real state of architecture, or Chicago’s place in it.  They cite two reasons primarily.  First, some of the highest-ranking firms tally revenue not just from their architecture business but also their engineering wings and other related divisions and disciplines.

Also, they cite a recent spate of mergers and acquisitions with allowing large firms to get even larger, even though the core they started from hasn’t increased output.  This is evident in the alphabet soup at #5: ARCADIS/Callison RTKL.

Still, here’s a look at the carnage:

Overall Top Ten

  1. Gensler — San Francisco
  2. AECOM — Los Angeles
  3. Jacobs — Pasadena, California
  4. Perkins+Will — Chicago
  5. ARCADIS/Callison RTKL — Highlands Ranch, Colorado
  6. CH2M Hill/IDC — Englewood, Colorado
  7. HDR Architecture — Omaha
  8. HOK — Saint Louis
  9. HKS — Dallas
  10. Skidmore Owings & Merrill — New York

The good news is that seven of the nine Chicago firms that made the list showed improvement.  One was flat, and the the remaining one made its first appearance.

Chicago’s Top Firms

  • 4. Perkins+Will +1
  • 26. NORR — Debut listing!
  • 28. AS+GG +37 — up from #65 last year — Woo hoo!
  • 32. VOA Associates +2  — also showing improvement
  • 36. SCB -0- Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars
  • 84. Goettsch Partners +34 with a bullet!
  • 157. Legat Architects +14
  • 182. Epstein +10
  • 222. exp +35



Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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  1. How do you define a “chicago firm”? Many of the top 10 have Chicago offices, just like Canadian firm EXP which you include.

    Post a Reply
    • Editor

      We didn’t define them, Architectural Record did.

      Generally speaking, it’s based on where the headquarters is. For example, Skidmore Owings and Merrill used to be a Chicago firm, but moved its headquarters to New York, making it a New York firm even though it has a significant presence in Chicago. One indicator is to see where its paying taxes.

      Why AR chose to list exp as a Chicago firm instead of an Ontario firm was not disclosed.

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