Women Leaders

Marianne Kwok, Kohn Pedersen Fox

Marianne Kwok

A Collaborative Approach

Editors’ Note

Since joining KPF in 1994, Marianne Kwok has been the Senior Designer for some of the firm’s most high-profile projects. Kwok received her Master of Architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and her Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University, where she was the recipient of the Charles Goodwin Sands Memorial Silver Medal.

Company Brief

Operating as one firm with six global offices, KPF (kpf.com) is one of the world’s premier architecture firms with approximately 600 staff members from 42 different countries, together speaking a collective 40 languages. The firm’s diverse portfolio comprises corporate headquarters, office buildings, hospitality, academic, medical, research, civic, museum, transportation, residential, and mixed-use projects both in the United States and abroad. More than 100 projects of the firm’s completed projects are certified, or pursuing, green certification.

What makes KPF such a special firm?

It’s the people who work here and because of them, there is so much intelligence and energy that appeals to the amazing set of clients we have. We’re able to realize great work because of that combination.

Do designers generally work in a certain category or is it across all platforms?

There isn’t a group of people who work on the same type of projects over and over. The commonality of what we all do is that we’re really interested in global cities and trying to solve problems.

Over half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and while there are many opportunities, there are also issues. What we bring is our interest in solving those problems, trying to think about density and transportation needs, a sustainable environment, how to get a balance of open-space greenery, and how people walk on the streets of a denser city. Those issues permeate every kind of work we do, be it office spaces, hotels, residential, or retail.

Our specialty is being able to do big, mixed-use projects that combine all of these elements while making cities more livable and more beautiful.

You’re involved in some of the work around Hudson Yards. How do you see the impact Hudson Yards will have on the city?

It’s really creating a new neighborhood in New York. Throughout the history of Manhattan, that area has always been transportation-related and a black hole that people always went around.

Hudson Yards knits the fabric of the city together. It’s wonderful that we have the High Line going around it and we are adjacent to Hudson River Park. There’s the new Hudson Boulevard Park where the number 7 train station is as well.

The transportation enables a lot of area to be built and to really make a neighborhood that has an unbelievable connection to parks, which is fantastic.

Will you talk about the strength of the business in the China market?

Working there is super exciting because there is such optimism and there is a feeling that anything is possible. Lately, there is a more measured view of development.

Are the opportunities there for women to enter the industry and to lead?

Yes, there are always opportunities. There are many societal issues that are not specific to working in architecture. There are issues for working women as they progress. A major challenge is about trying to find work/life balance for everyone with a family.