David M. Childs, Design Partner

b. 1941

Architect David Childs in 2005 at age 64
Architect David Childs in 2005 at age 64. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

David Magie Childs' long relationship with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has given this senior statesman of American architecture wide-ranging experience and success.


Born: April 1, 1941, Princeton, New Jersey


  • Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, Massachusetts
  • 1963, Yale, BA
  • 1967, Yale School of Art and Architecture, graduate degree

Professional Experience:

  • 1968 - 1971: Pennsylvania Avenue Commission, Washington, D.C.
  • 1971 - present: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM); 1971–1984: Washington, DC; 1984–present: New York City; Consulting Design Principal
  • 1975 - 1981: Chairman of National Capital Planning Commission

Childs is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA).

Principal Works:

In May 2012, David Childs was one of fifteen "Architects of Healing" receiving a special AIA Gold Medallion for his redesign of One World Trade Center and Seven World Trade Center in New York City.

Early Experience With the Pennsylvania Avenue Commission:

Fresh out of Yale University, Childs formed a strong relationship between 1968 and 1971 with both Nathaniel Owings, a founding partner of Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM), and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a future U.S. Senator from New York State.

From 1964 until 1973, Childs' future employer, Nathaniel Owings, was chairman of President Kennedy's Temporary Commission on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. "In the early years of the Kennedy administration, the plan to redesign Pennsylvania Avenue was the most significant redevelopment project in the country," claims the Skidmore Owings and Merrill website. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the young Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Kennedy Administration, led the government's plan to revitalize Pennsylvania Avenue and the National Mall. Through this Commission's hard work, negotiations, and consensus, Pennsylvania Avenue is now a designated National Historic Site.

One could argue that Childs' early experiences on the Commission led the young architect to a lifelong proficiency in public architecture, city planning, and the politics behind construction and design—skills needed to accomplish his goals in the complicated days after September 11, 2011.

Sources: Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site" National Park Service website; Nathaniel A. Owings, FAIA, Architect and Founding Partner, 1903-1984, Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) website (www.som.com/content.cfm/nathaniel_a_owings). Websites accessed September 2, 2012

David Childs In His Own Words:

"I like big complicated projects where you have to assemble teams, deal with the down-and-dirty contractors, the marketplace and the leasing agents with an imagination level only as high as what made money last time."—2003, The New York Times

"Each of us architects has had mentors and teachers whose work and words have guided us as well. For me they include Nat Owings, Pat Moynihan, Vincent Scully. It is thus been a very collective effort in the fullest sense, and I believe every American can equally take pride in what is and has been accomplished."—2012 AIA National Convention

"You know what a Richard Meier building will look like; there's a style. I'm more like Eero Saarinen, whom I revere. His buildings all look different."—2003, The New York Times

"The U.S. invented skyscrapers, but we've fallen behind.

WTC 1 is a solution to many technical problems, and it represents the very best in codes, structure, and safety. It's a concrete core with steel exterior, which is an efficient and safe system, but it had not been done in New York for a host of reasons, mostly because of the arrangement between trade groups. The form tapers on its four corners, which buildings—like trees—want to do anyway."—2011 AIArchitect

Sources: "The New Ground Zero: The Invisible Architect," Julie V. Iovine, The New York Times, August 31, 2003; Architects of Healing Videos, American Institute of Architects, 2012; "AIArchitect Talks with David Childs, FAIA," John Gendall, AIArchitect, 2011 [Websites accessed August 15, 2012]

What Others Say:

"Throughout his years of practice in Washington, Mr. Childs became noted for his design of 'appropriate' architecture, buildings and spaces that respond to their settings and programs rather than pursue a preconceived architectural image."—U.S. Department of State
~ Website at http://canada.usembassy.gov/about-us/embassy-information/frequently-asked-questions/embassy-architects.html [accessed September 5, 2012]

"Your work demonstrates that architecture is the art of compromise and collaboration, that it is a social act, never created by one person working alone and always creating community. As a creative artist successfully negotiating within a world governed by corporate objectives you have shown that aesthetic vision and functional considerations can coexist, that architecture is the art of both the real and the visionary. You compose steel and glass the way a poet constructs phrases and in so doing create physical entities that reflect personal aspirations and a collective self-image. Your buildings grace our environment and enrich our lives."—Colby Collge, Citation for David M. Childs, May 22, 2005 [accessed August 15, 2012]

Architects and Architecture of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill:

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Craven, Jackie. "David M. Childs, Design Partner." ThoughtCo, Jul. 6, 2017, thoughtco.com/david-m-childs-design-partner-177377. Craven, Jackie. (2017, July 6). David M. Childs, Design Partner. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/david-m-childs-design-partner-177377 Craven, Jackie. "David M. Childs, Design Partner." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/david-m-childs-design-partner-177377 (accessed March 18, 2018).