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When Rafael Pelli was growing up, he didn’t want to become an architect. But now the son of Cesar Pelli is a name partner at his father’s world-renowned architecture firm.
I.M. Pei’s sons, Chien Chung and Li Chung, were members of their father’s firm, Pei Cobb Freed, before launching Pei Partnership Architects together in 1992. Steven Davis, architect of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, is a partner in Davis Brody Bond and the son of one of its founders, Lewis Davis.
What is it about families and architecture firms? Unlike New York’s storied real-estate dynasties, which hand property portfolios from one generation to the next, architecture firms own little more than a bunch of computers and drafting boards.
Still, many architects work at firms their parents founded. At Gensler, there’s even a third generation in the ranks: the two daughters of David Gensler, a former chief executive of the firm and the child of founders Art and Drue Gensler.
“When you come from a design-oriented family, thinking about the things you are looking at was part of the natural conversation of life,” said Rafael Pelli, 59 years old.
Many children of architects go into their father’s profession partly for the same reasons that the children of musicians and movie stars do. They grow up steeped in the craft and see how much fun their parents are having.
As with movie stars and politicians, the names of architects can become valuable brands. In the big-money world of real-estate development, top designers can see many benefits in keeping the founder’s name on the letterhead. […]