James Zheng Named CEO and Paul De Santis Named Co-Design Director at GP


GP announces that James Zheng, AIA, LEED AP, has been named CEO, and Paul De Santis, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, joins James Goettsch, FAIA, as co-design directors for the practice. As the primary partners in the firm, the three have worked closely together for more than 17 years. Goettsch will also continue to serve as chairman while Zheng now assumes the full CEO title as well as president.

Goettsch and Zheng joined the firm in 1992 and 1995 respectively. They have shared leadership and management responsibilities since 2013 and served as co-CEOs since 2018. Zheng’s steady leadership of the firm, coupled with his emphasis on design quality and technical expertise delivered with highly personal service will continue to be the foundation of the practice. Goettsch and De Santis have both been leading the designs of major projects in the U.S. and abroad for many years. As co-design directors, they will collaborate in guiding the overall architectural philosophy of the firm while ensuring that design excellence is paramount across all assignments.

In addition to day-to-day management of the firm, Zheng has focused on strategic growth. With the firm’s established specialties in office, hospitality and mixed-use projects, Zheng concentrated on the multifamily residential sector five years ago, hiring key principal leaders and support staff to develop a market focus that now includes more than 7,000 apartments and condominiums across 13 projects and five cities. Zheng has also had recent success in expanding the firm’s reach, with the opening of a new office in Denver last month. He will continue to focus on growing that office to further serve clients in the West.  

“James has been leading the firm successfully for several years now,” said Goettsch. “He is more than capable of furthering the firm’s vision and guiding its future.” 

De Santis recently completed the firm’s tallest building to-date, the 403-meter-tall Guangxi China Resources Tower in Nanning, China. His work in Asia focuses on several tall and supertall buildings, with key projects in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Wuhan. His current U.S. work includes premier office, hospitality, residential and mixed-use projects in Chicago, Denver and Nashville. 

“Paul emerged as a design leader in the firm very soon after joining us in 2005,” noted Goettsch. “I am pleased to formally acknowledge the shared design leadership we have been practicing for many years.”

The new appointments recognize a planned leadership and management structure and continuing evolution of the firm, dating back to its start in 1938.

About James Goettsch, FAIA
Goettsch received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Iowa State University and began his career in New York City. He moved to Chicago to work for CF Murphy Associates, which became Murphy/Jahn, remaining with the firm for 19 years, including five years serving as principal in charge of the New York office. Goettsch joined Lohan Associates as a design principal in 1992 and shortly thereafter led the firm’s expansion into high-rise and international projects, over time securing work in China, Europe and the Middle East. The firm transitioned to Goettsch Partners in 2005. Throughout his career, Goettsch has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects, other professional organizations and academic institutions with honors, as well as invitations to speak publicly on design issues. In 1988, the AIA named Goettsch a Fellow in recognition of his contributions to the profession, and in 2019, he received the Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. Goettsch is a member of the AIA, CTBUH, and the Mies van der Rohe Society. He has served on the boards of directors for both the AIA Chicago chapter and the Chicago Architecture Center.

About James Zheng, AIA, LEED AP
A native of Shanghai, Zheng studied architecture at Tongji University for two years before moving to Chicago. He received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master of Business Administration degree from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. Since joining the firm in 1995, he has risen to his leadership position with balanced strengths in design, management, operations and business development. He helped establish the firm’s presence in China with the opening of a representative Shanghai office in 2004, followed by a full-service office in 2009. In recognition of his wide-ranging talents and accomplishments, Mr. Zheng received the 2004 AIA Chicago Young Architect Award and was named among the Crain’s Chicago Business 40 Under 40 in 2005. He is a member of the AIA, a registered LEED Accredited Professional, a member of CTBUH and its Advisory Group, and a member of The Executives’ Club of Chicago.

About Paul De Santis, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP
De Santis received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1998 and joined GP in 2005. He immediately emerged as a creative talent. In 2009, he helped establish GP’s office in Shanghai, leading design teams for large, complex projects, primarily in China. Since joining the firm, he has now worked on more than 50 projects across three continents, including major office, hospitality, residential and mixed-use developments. De Santis has led the design of several winning competition entries, and he is a frequent speaker on issues related to tall buildings, with recent presentations in Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Seoul and Shanghai. He is a member of the AIA, a registered LEED Accredited Professional, a member of CTBUH, and a member of the Urban Land Institute.