A few instantly iconic buildings captured the public's imagination in the past year. Herzog & de Meuron's "Birds' Nest" Olympic stadium and Rem Koolhaas's headquarters for Central Chinese Television, both in Beijing, come to mind. But for sheer quantity of dazzlers, no firm can match the venerable architectural behemoth Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. It is currently engaged in some 1,320 projects worldwide.
Known for snazzy corporate headquarters, the firm also designed the elegant Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, California, and the award-winning LEED Silver masterpiece for the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, SOM won 54 awards in 2008, with its most mind-boggling efforts rising in the Middle East and China. "SOM has the ability to think locally and design globally," says Rick Bell, executive director of the American Institute of Architects' New York chapter and a juror for the International Architecture Awards. Here are five examples from the 54 cities where most of its work is concentrated.