John O. Merrill

John Ogden Merrill Sr. (10 August 1896 – 13 June 1975) was an American architect and structural engineer. He was chiefly responsible for the design[1] and construction of the United States Air Force Academy campus[2] and for the development of Oak Ridge, Tennessee where the atomic bomb was developed. He was a partner of the international architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.[3]

John O. Merrill
John O. Merrill.jpg
Born(1896-08-10)August 10, 1896
DiedJune 13, 1975(1975-06-13) (aged 78)
Awards1950 Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA)
PracticeSkidmore, Owings and Merrill

Early lifeEdit

Merrill was born in St. Paul, Minnesota.[4] He studied at the University of Wisconsin from 1915 through 1917. His education was interrupted by his war time service in the military.[5] During World War I, he served as a captain in the coastal artillery.[1] When released from the military in 1919, he continued his education.[5] The Massachusetts Institute of Technology awarded him a degree in architecture in 1921.[1]


The Chicago architectural firm of Granger and Bollenbacher gave Merrill his first opportunity to practice architecture,[1] and by 1939, Merrill had become the chief architect for the Midwest States for the Federal Housing Administration.[1]

Skidmore, Owings and MerrillEdit

Merril joined Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) in 1939. He is credited with establishing the multi-disciplinary nature of the firm,[6] and the innovative character of SOM’s organization and culture was influenced at an early stage by Merrill and other architectural engineers who later became partners in the practice.[7] SOM defined a new architectural approach of teamwork and total or comprehensive design.[8]

The firm undertook the coordination of every aspect of a specific project – design, engineering, landscaping, urban planning and interiors.[9] Major military projects with which Merrill was associated include:

Merrill's death in Colorado Springs, Colorado was reported in the New York Times on June 13, 1975.[1]

Community leadershipEdit

Merrill was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA);[1] In 1937, he was president of the Chicago Chapter of the AIA.[15] In 1950, Merrill was appointed as a member of the Board of Consultants to the New York State Building Code Commission;[16] and he directed revision of the Chicago Building Code in 1947–1949.[5]

Among Merrill's interests outside his profession was his support for Friends of the Earth. In 1969, he lent his name to a campaign to encourage men and women to pledge that they would not buy fur coats or any other articles made from skins of wild animals.[17]


Select worksEdit

Merrill's published writings are few.[19]

  • 1921: Design and Comparative Costs of Various Concrete Floor Systems (with R.A. Eckles). Thesis (B.S.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Architectural Engineering. OCLC 37815235[20]
  • 1962: Archiektur von Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1950–1962 (with Louis Skidmore, Ernst Danz, Ernst van Haagen and Nathaniel Owings).Stuttgart: Hatje.OCLC 164879857[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "John Merrill Sr., Architect, Dead," New York Times. June 13, 1975.
  2. ^ Nauman, Robert Allen. (2004). On the Wings of Modernism: the United States Air Force Academy, p. 81., p. 81, at Google Books
  3. ^ Museum of Modern Art (MOMA): SOM citing Richard Guy Wilson (2009). Grove Art Online, Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ "Merrill, John Ogden," (1999). American National Biography, Vol. 15, pp. 360–361.
  5. ^ a b c d Lehman College Art Gallery, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), Merrill bio notes
  6. ^ MOMA, excerpt: "In addition to Merrill, who established the multi-disciplinary nature of the firm ...."
  7. ^ MOMA, excerpt: "The character of SOM’s work was much influenced by the engineers who became partners in the practice. In addition to Merrill ..., they included Myron Goldsmith and Fazlur Khan (1929–82), both of whom joined the firm in 1955."
  8. ^ MOMA, excerpt: "SOM defined a new architectural approach of team work and total or comprehensive design ...."
  9. ^ MOMA, excerpt: "... since the firm undertook everything: design, engineering, landscaping, urban planning and interiors."
  10. ^ Westcott, Ed. (2005). Oak Ridge, p. 61., p. 61, at Google Books
  11. ^ Nauman, pp. 72–84., p. 72, at Google Books
  12. ^ Bruegmann, Robert. (1994). Modernism at Mid-Century: the Architecture of the United States Air Force Academy, p. 187, 189., p. 187, at Google Books
  13. ^ National Historic Landmark Nomination, United States Air Force Academy (Form OMB No. 1024-0018), p. 5 citing "Testimony of John Merrill before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Military Construction Appropriations," U.S. Congress, House, 84th Cong., 1st sess., 30 June 1955, 204-5.
  14. ^ "Radical Design Dropped For Air Academy Chapel," New York Times. July 4, 1955; excerpt, "The Chicago architect said that to remain with the original cadet chapel would have 'distracted' public thinking on the entire design. He expressed the belief that the over-all academy design was 'good – considering, as it must be considered, the terrain of the site."
  15. ^ "Residential Work Rising in Chicago," New York Times. February 14, 1937.
  16. ^ "Name Consultants for Building Code," New York Times. March 26, 1950.
  17. ^ "The War on Fur Coats Grows," New York Times, November 20, 1969.
  18. ^ American Institute of Architects Historical Directory, Merrill, ahd1030138 Archived 2012-03-31 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ WorldCat Identities Archived 2010-12-30 at the Wayback Machine: Merrill, John O.; Merrill, John O. 1896-  ; Merrill, J. O.; Merrill, John Ogden 1896–1975;
  20. ^ WorldCat: Merrill, J. O.
  21. ^ WorldCat: Merrill, John O.


  • Bruegmann, Robert. (1994). Modernism at Mid-Century: the Architecture of the United States Air Force Academy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226076935; ISBN 9780226076942; OCLC 260219357
  • Nauman, Robert Allen. (2004). On the Wings of Modernism: the United States Air Force Academy. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252028915; OCLC 52542599
  • Westcott, Ed. (2005). Oak Ridge. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-4170-9; OCLC 62511041
  • Wilkes, Joseph A. and Robert T. Packard. (1989). Encyclopedia of Architecture: Design, Engineering & Construction. New York: John Wiley. ISBN 9780471633518; OCLC 300305038