The International Commerce Centre. Image by H.G. Esch.

Lotte World Tower. Image by Lim Hye Seung.

Lotte World Tower. Image by Lim Hye Seung.

Les Robertson lecture to KPF staff. Image by John Chu for KPF.

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KPF Mourns the Loss of Dear Friend and Close Collaborator Les Robertson

KPF Principals and Founding Partner Bill Pedersen remember close friend of the firm Les Robertson.

A Note from the KPF Principals

We are saddened by the loss of our dear friend and close collaborator Les Robertson, whose partnership enabled many of the projects of which our firm is most proud. With his inventive brilliance, Les brought a powerfully conceptual approach to some of our most important projects, notably the ICC tower in Hong Kong, the Shanghai World Financial Center in Shanghai, and the Lotte World Tower in Seoul. He fought fiercely for the causes he believed in, whether in support of good architecture or of social justice. We will miss Les as a loyal friend, and will continue to advance the ideals that we shared during our lives together.

A Remembrance by Bill Pedersen

Years ago, I remember looking out of the window of my New York apartment and seeing I.M. Pei and Les Robertson walking together, along 81 St., engaged in a deep conversation. The image of these two men conversing, I.M. a great architect and Les a great structural engineer, was a poignant moment for me. Together they had just completed the Bank of China. Few tall buildings represent the bond between architect and engineer better than it does. The dramatic linkage of form and structure is its identity.

With Les at our side, we at KPF have designed several of the world’s tallest buildings. Each of them has a story behind their creation which places Les at the center of their
evolution. We sought his approbation for the design solutions we proposed. It did not come easily. He was dismissive of the arbitrary, the inefficient and the inelegant. Only concepts of structural and formal integrity were acceptable. For him the organic biology of the tall building must lead to the sustainable use of material. Doing more with less was his constant obsession.

Perhaps no tall building we have designed represents this more literally than the Shanghai World Financial Center. Les was not the building’s initial structural engineer. It had been designed before the Asian financial crisis and the footings for its great weight had been placed before construction was stopped. Five years later, when construction was resumed, our client, Mori Building from Japan, desired to increase the height and width of the building without increasing its weight. (Increasing the bearing capacity of the previously installed footings was not possible.) Les was asked to take on this challenge. He accepted. The genius of his solution made its construction possible.

Now, he is gone, and we at KPF will miss him greatly.