Five Partners Split from KPF London

September 25, 2009

By Tim McKeough

Eugene Kohn
A. Eugene Kohn, FAIA

The five partners in the London office of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates have left to start their own practice, named PLP Architecture. The founders of the new firm are Lee Polisano, FAIA, former president of KPF, as well as David Leventhal, FAIA, Fred Pilbrow, RIBA, Karen Cook, AIA, and Ron Bakker, AIA. The move comes after the five made a failed attempt to buy out KPF’s UK operations in July.

“The London shareholders banded together to make an offer to purchase the London operation—the space, the people, and all the contracts that we had,” says KPF chairman A. Eugene Kohn, FAIA. “They rather surprised us.” At the time, the firm had a total of 13 shareholders, and the rest of the team rejected the offer.

KPF Team
Photo courtesy PLP Architecture (above); KPF (right)

The five former KPF partners, from left: Karen Cook, Ron Bakker, David Leventhal, Lee Polisano, Fred Pilbrow.

Eugene Kohn discusses how KPF is weathering the recession. Click here to view a larger version of this video. Kohn also recently spoke with RECORD about founding his firm during a recession in the 1970s.

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According to Kohn, “Their hope was that KPF London would be separate from New York, and they would use the name…but be owned primarily by themselves, free to do what they wanted. But [the firm] is not like a franchise.”

According to Polisano, setting up PLP Architecture will allow the five principals to explore opportunities they couldn’t pursue while at KPF. “We want to push some of the other types of projects we’re interested in, and push the geographic locations where we’ve been working,” he says. “We’ll begin to examine a number of things that we haven’t been able to do.” However, he was tightlipped about what specific projects PLP will initially take on.

Kohn, who is now heading up KPF’s London office, reported that his firm has managed to hold on to the majority of its projects and employees. “To date, no project has left us,” he says, before conceding that “I think there will be one or two that eventually do.”

Of KPF’s approximately 200 employees in London, “about 30” are now with PLP, says Polisano, who hopes to eventually build up a staff of 80 to 100 people. KPF has been replacing those people by promoting from within, bringing employees over from New York, and “hiring some of the really phenomenal talent that’s available in London, from all the great firms that laid off people,” says Kohn.

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