Paul Katz, managing principal of the global architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) has died aged 57 after a short illness. In his thirty years with the practice he oversaw the design and construction of many major projects around the world including the Roppongi Centre in Tokyo, the Shanghai World Financial Center, and buildings in Canary Wharf. Work on two of Paul’s most prominent projects—the redevelopment of Earl’s Court, 52 Lime Street in London and Hudson Yards in New York—continues under construction.
Paul was the ultimate global architect, seemingly oblivious of the impact of the diurnal cycles that affect most travelers. Trips to KPF offices and projects in Asia, Europe, and the United States all in the course of one week were normal. These regular visits meant that he had a clear and local understanding of the clients, sites, conditions, issues, and the people of the cities in which he worked.
Paul was born in South Africa where he began his architectural studies before moving on to the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, and Princeton University. He joined KPF in 1984.
He was particularly interested in architectural issues relating to urban density and the role of high rise structures as the building type of this century. He understood the need of cities around the world to densify as urban populations exploded and the benefits that well-designed places and infrastructure can bring. He believed that lessons learned in the Far East could be brought back to London and New York. His projects in places like Nine Elms and Hudson Yards will be testament to those far reaching ideas.
For many years, Paul taught a summer course on office building design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and he lectured at numerous events and conferences in the United States, in Asia, and around the world. Most recently, he taught a design studio at the Yale School of Architecture, and with KPF’s Gene Kohn, co-authored a book, Building Type Basics for Office Buildings.
The international work of the practice has grown with the globalization of financial services, starting with buildings for Goldman Sachs on London’s Fleet Street and for Olympia & York at Canary Wharf. Paul was always grateful to the practice founders, Gene Kohn and Bill Pedersen, for the opportunities they gave to the second generation of designers to deliver major projects that responded to the local context. For Paul, these projects gained from the integration of different cultures. Paul liked to learn from the countries he worked in and always strived to do better work because of the interaction with the place—something he thought set KPF apart from other American architectural practices.
In spite of the practice’s large size, Katz believed KPF provided a “boutique experience” that retained a very personal touch with clients while offering unrivaled global expertise garnered from working with different markets simultaneously.
He was proud of the personal attention he, and others in the firm, gave to these global projects, and that clients felt comfortable in selecting KPF not only for the design but for the firm’s understanding of the culture, the company, and the place.
Open and gregarious, Paul was a natural networker and a doughty negotiator and critic when required. His belief in the positive impact of new architecture was infectious and unbounded.
Just as Gene and Bill had encouraged him and other partners to aspire to and achieve great things, Paul aimed to do the same with younger members of the practice. To him, KPF was a community made up of individuals who held strong points of view and values—with creating well-crafted, quality buildings at the forefront. He said he saw it as an achievement when a client would tell him: “Well Paul, you don’t have to come over; so and so is doing a great job, stay at home.” Well, now he can, and others he has trained and inspired will pick up the baton.