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Partners: network

Chris Carver, George Francis Hellmuth, George Edward Kassabaum, Ronald Joseph Labinski, Gyo Frederick Obata, Earl Santee, Joseph Spear, Dennis Wellner

Active 1983-2008

Firm Notes

The firm was begun in 1983 by four partners, Chris Carver, Ron Labinski, Joe Spear and Dennis Wellner. They had worked previously for the merged firm of HNTB and Kivett Myers, headquartered in Kansas City, MO, that specialized in sports architecture. This combined HNTB-Kivett Myers firm had gained wide acclaim for its designs for Arrowhead Stadium (1973) and Royals Stadium (later Kauffman Stadium, 1973).

As noted in the 2002 article "Anatomy of a Giant: HOK," Spear stated: "We knew HOK had been engaged in efforts to open an office in Kansas City," recalls architect Joe Spear, who today heads HOK Sport + Venue + Event. In 1983, however, he and a few other designers were at HNTB, Kansas City, the famed firm that had designed local Arrowhead Stadium. Spear and three other architects, Chris Carver, Ron Labinski and Dennis Wellner, had all talked about how disenchanted they were with HNTB's practice as a partnership of awarding projects strictly on geographical bases. "Our main frustration was that we would do the work on the front end and then a local office would say 'OK, thanks, we'll take it from here and let you guys know how it turns out,'" Spear explains. Now, of course, HNTB functions differently, more like a corporation, but 20 years ago, the situation was enough to launch the defection that would change the face of sports architecture.” (See Rob McManamy with Barbara Horwitz, Building Design +, "Anatomy of a Giant: HOK," published 07/01/2002, accessed 09/03/2021.)

Executives of HOK Sport, Incoporated, agreed to a buyout and separation with the larger HOK Group, Incorporated, in 2008. It renamed itself "Populous," to differentiate it from HOK in 03/2009.

According to the web site of the firm's successor, Populous: "...In 1999, the firm acquired architects with expertise in convention center and sports event planning design. The firm has continued to operate as one, serving all areas of design for gathering people and continuing to lead the industry in convention center, stadia, ballpark, arena, fairground and equestrian event planning and design. Over its first 26 years in existence, Populous has designed nearly 1,000 projects and events around the globe, representing more than $20 billion in construction value." (See "History," accessed 10/12/2011.)

PCAD id: 873