Chairman and CEO of HOK
Bill Hellmuth, 1953–2023
12. April 2023
Photo: Screenshot from “Celebrating the Life of Bill Hellmuth”
Architect William (Bill) Hellmuth, the Chairman and CEO of HOK and nephew of founding partner George F. Hellmuth, died on April 6, 2023, at the age of 69, following a long illness.
Bill Hellmuth's death came the same month he was set to retire and would have turned 70 (on April 15). Last November, when Hellmuth was on medical leave, HOK announced he would be retiring this month, “just ahead of the firm’s annual shareholder meeting.” This week's announcement of Hellmuth's death celebrates his legacy and long career: 44 years in architecture and 32 of them at HOK.
Following a bachelor of architecture from the University of Virginia and a master of architecture from Princeton University, Hellmuth headed to New York City, where he worked for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). After about a dozen years working on office buildings in the city, Hellmuth “joined HOK at the urging of firm cofounder Gyo Obata” in 1991. Obata had founded HOK with George F. Hellmuth and George Kassabaum decades earlier.
“I rediscovered all the Hellmuths when I got to St. Louis,” Hellmuth said in a 2008 Washington Business Journal piece. “It was interesting to find that my uncle’s principles in founding the firm are still relevant today. He believed in geographic and project type diversity, an idea that is really, really beneficial when there is a downturn in the marketplace.”
Less than two years after leaving SOM for HOK, Hellmuth was tapped to lead HOK's Washington, DC office, in 1993. In 2004, he joined HOK's executive committee and was named president of the firm one year later; he became CEO in 2016 and chairman in 2017.
"With the perspective of more than four decades, I can safely state that I have never met an architect who was Bill’s equal in combining design thinking, empathetic leadership, client relations, business development and business acumen. He truly was one of a kind and it was my great pleasure to work with him."
Hellmuth was a passionate designer over his decades at HOK, one who strongly encouraged the young designers in the firm. The HOK obituary on Hellmuth lists some of his most notable designs:
- Abu Dhabi National Oil Company Headquarters in the UAE
- US Embassy Chancery and Office Annex in Moscow
- Msheireb Downtown Doha mixed-use community in Qatar
- King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center and Residential Community in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Morgan State University’s Jenkins Hall Behavioral and Social Sciences Center in Baltimore
Lastly, the obituary lists some of the buildings he and the HOK team designed in his adopted home of Washington, DC:
- Constitution Square mixed-use district
- DC Consolidated Forensic Laboratory
- National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia
- NOAA’s National Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, Maryland