Marshall Strabala

Marshall Strabala
Marshall Strabala

Marshall Strabala views Shanghai Tower model with Shanghai skyline in background (2010)
Born Seattle, Washington U.S.[1]
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard University
University of California at Los Angeles[1]
Organization 2DEFINE Architecture
Notable works Shanghai Tower, Houston Ballet Center for Dance, Hess Tower

Chicago Architecture Club’s Burnham Prize, 1996;[2]
AIA Chicago Chapter Grand Projects Award;[2]

Affiliated Fellow (1997), American Academy in Rome[3]

Jay Marshall Strabala is an American architect who has been recognized with participating in the design of notable buildings, including as a member of the team that designed the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. However, in June 2011, two of Strabala's former architectural firm employers sued him alleging that he had "misrepresented" the role he played in various projects.[4][5]



Strabala received his bachelor of arts in design from the University of California, Los Angeles.[1][2] In 1988, Strabala graduated with an Master of Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design.[1][2]


Skidmore, Owings and Merrill

After graduating with his master's degree, Strabala worked at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) in Chicago, Illinois, for 19 years.[6] He ultimately was made an associate partner in charge of design.[6]

While at SOM, Strabala served as the studio head under lead architect Adrian Smith in working on the design of Burj Khalifa (Dubai, 2009), which is the tallest building in the world.[6][7][8] Strabala also worked under Smith as one of the two studio heads over the course of the project in designing the 828 m. tall Nanjing Greenland Financial Center (Nanjing, China, 2010).[6][9] Also while at SOM, Strabala participated in the design of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (Hong Kong, 1997).[6]

Strabala left SOM in 2006.[6] In a 2007 interview, Adrian Smith alleged that Strabala was one of several architects up for, but who did not make, partner at SOM in what Smith described as "a power move by the New York office."[10]


Houston Ballet Center for Dance

After leaving SOM, Strabala joined the Houston, Texas, office of Gensler global architectural firm as the firm's South Central Region Director of Design in 2006.[2][6] Strabala has been reported to have led the design of the 128-story Shanghai Tower while at Gensler and to have completed the "bulk of the design work".[6] Gensler, however, claims that the tower is not Strabala's design. According to Gensler, "Gensler, not (Strabala), is the source of the architectural and design services rendered in designing the Shanghai Tower."[11] When it is finished, the tower will become China's tallest building and the world's second-tallest building.[6]

Strabala also has been credited for leading Gensler's efforts in designing Hess Tower (Houston, 2010) and the Houston Ballet Center for Dance (2011).[12][13][14] However, Gensler has claimed that "'Gensler, not (Strabala), is the source of the architectural and design services rendered in designing Hess Tower'", and that Strabala was but "'one of many members of that Gensler team'" that designed the Houston Ballet Center for Dance.[4]

Strabala left Gensler in 2010.[6]

Formation of new firm

After leaving Gensler, Strabala started his own architectural firm, 2DEFINE Architecture, with offices in Shanghai, Seoul, and Chicago.[6] According to Strabala, he "continues to be involved in the Shanghai Tower project at the behest of the client".[6]

Litigation concerning attribution of credit

In June 2011, Gensler, sued Strabala alleging that after founding his own firm he "'misrepresented the nature of his contribution, if any, to certain design projects while intentionally minimizing or entirely omitting the nature of Gensler's contribution.'"[11][4][15]

One day later, SOM also sued Strabala alleging that he was "falsely claiming credit for work that originated with the company, including the designs for three of the 10 tallest buildings in the world."[5][16]

Strabala and his attorneys have filed motions to dismiss both lawsuits.[17][18][15][16]

Local involvement

In 1999, Strabala, speaking as a private citizen as part of a community group, testified before the Chicago City Council Zoning Committee against a high-rise development at 840 Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Illinois.[19] Strabala lived nearby and was concerned that the high-rise would be "out of scale with the neighborhood".[19] Despite opponents' efforts, and that the project would "flout existing law", the Zoning Committee amended the ordinance allowing the project to proceed even though it contradicted zoning ordinances.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d "Industry Folks: Marshall Strabala, Gensler". Houston Construction News: p. 22. January 2009. Retrieved 2011-05-21. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Gensler (April 7, 2006). "J. Marshall Strabala Joins Gensler Houston As Director Of Design". officenewswire. Retrieved 2011-05-21. 
  3. ^ "SOF News, 1990s". Society of Fellows News (American Academy in Rome): p. 15. spring 2009. Retrieved 2011-05-20. 
  4. ^ a b c "Architect making false claims, former employer says". Sun-Times Media Wire. Chicago: WLS-AM. June 10, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-11. 
  5. ^ a b Ugolik, Kaitlin (June 10, 2011). "Ex-Skidmore Architect Sued Over Building Design Claims". Law360. Retrieved 2011-06-11. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Miller, JFK (December 9, 2010). "The Master Builder". that's Shanghai (Shanghai, China: Urbanatomy Media). ISSN 1672-8033. Retrieved 2011-06-04. 
  7. ^ Keegan, Edward (October 2006). "Adrian Smith Leaves SOM". Architect (American Institute of Architects & Hanley Wood). Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  8. ^ Bernstein, Fred A. (August 12, 2008). "Rising in Dubai: Adrian Smith's vision of green: Tall and getting taller". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  9. ^ "The architect's architect". that's Shanghai (Urbanatomy Media). March 18, 2011. ISSN 1672-8033. Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  10. ^ Makovsky, Paul (January 2007). "Parting Company". Metropolis 26 (6). ISSN 0279-4977. Retrieved 2011-06-04. 
  11. ^ a b "Newswire: Gensler vs. Strabala". Architect (American Institute of Architects & Hanley Wood). June 10, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  12. ^ Hall, Christine (September 26, 2010). "Marshall Strabala Gives New Meaning to Supertall". Houston Business Journal. Retrieved 2011-06-09. 
  13. ^ Glentzer, Molly (July 31, 2009). "Houston Ballet breaks ground on new downtown home". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  14. ^ Shields, Mitchell J. (2009). "Houston's New Home for Dance". Houston Ballet. Retrieved 2011-06-28. 
  15. ^ a b "Court Documents". Gensler v. Strabala. RFC Express. Retrieved 2011-10-19. 
  16. ^ a b "Court Documents". Skidmore, Owings and Merrill v. Strabala. RFC Express. Retrieved 2011-10-19. 
  17. ^ "Motion by Defendant Jay Marshall Strabala to dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) (docket #16)". Gensler v. Strabala (1:11-cv-03945). U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (PACER). Aug. 9, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  18. ^ "Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction filed by Jay Marshall Strabala (docket #17)". Skidmore, Owings and Merrill v. Strabala (1:11-cv-03906-MGC}. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (PACER). Sep. 12, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  19. ^ a b c Garza, Melita Marie (August 25, 1999). "Streeterville High-rise Passes Zoning Panel". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 

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