headshot of William Baker

William F. Baker, P.E., S.E., F.SEI, NAE, Dist.M.ASCE, a consulting partner for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Chicago, has been honored with inclusion by ASCE in its 2024 class of distinguished members for extending the profession of structural engineering through design, research, teaching, and professional activities, as well as for leadership in the development of innovative structures for high-rise buildings worldwide.

Baker is one of the preeminent structural engineers of our time. From the 1990s onward he has been a leader in developing and employing methods of advanced structural analysis and topology optimization to design more innovative, economical, and architecturally inspiring buildings. For Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, he developed his novel “buttressed core” structural system. Other skyscraper projects include the AT&T Corporate Center, Trump International Hotel & Tower, Cayan Tower, the Nanjing Greenland Financial Center, and the Tianjin CTF Finance Centre. His efforts extend to long-span roof structures, such as the Korean Air Operations Hangar and the Virginia Beach Convention Center, as well as the Broadgate Exchange House in London.

He has significantly impacted both researchers and practicing engineers by pointing toward important paradigms for next-generation structures.  His works – which are focused on creating new and efficient structural geometries – are widely cited, and he has collaborated with numerous artists, including Jamie Carpenter, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, James Turrell, and Janet Echelman.

Baker has a very active work and travel schedule but still makes time to give back to the profession through lectures and papers. He has lectured and instructed courses on the theory and design of efficient structures at MIT, University of Cambridge, Princeton University, Northwestern University, UIUC, Illinois Institute of Technology, and others. 

He is actively involved with numerous professional organizations and is a fellow of IStructE. He joined SOM in 1981, becoming a partner in 1996.

Baker has received honorary doctorates from the University of Stuttgart, Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and the University of Missouri in Columbia. He was given the ASCE Outstanding Projects and Leaders award for design. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 2011 and the UK Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014.

He is a registered professional engineer in 11 states, the District of Columbia, and Alberta as well as a licensed structural engineer in three states and a Charter Engineer in the United Kingdom. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Missouri–Columbia and a master’s degree in the same area from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1980).