Books: The John Hancock Center & Engineering Architecture

By Yasmin Sabina Khan:

I followed my father into the field of building design when I studied at the university and worked as a structural engineer. Thanks to this background, I have been able to write about his life and work from a unique perspective.

Building Blocks: The John Hancock Center

Building Blocks: The John Hancock Center

Building Blocks: The John Hancock Center is a small book of photographs of the John Hancock Center in Chicago. My father both initiated a new structural system, the trussed-tube, for this 100 story tower and assumed responsibility for the building’s structural design and construction. My Introduction (the only text in this book) briefly tells the story of my father and architect Bruce Graham’s collaboration on this record-setting residential tower.

Engineering Architecture: The Vision of Fazlur R. Khan presents a considerably more detailed story of my father’s life and work. In this book I examine my father’s innovations within the context of his personal beliefs and the social setting of the time in which he practiced. I have tried to convey his personal character and philosophy along with his manner of working with people, because these were important aspects of his design accomplishments.

The opening chapter of Engineering Architecture focuses on my father’s childhood in Bengal. The book then follows his career and looks closely at his most influential work. Projects included are:

  • United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • United Airlines Executive Offices, Elk Grove Village, Illinois
  • Brunswick Building, Chicago
  • Chestnut–DeWitt Apartments, Chicago
  • 100 story John Hancock Center, Chicago
  • Chicago Picasso, Civic Center Plaza, Chicago
  • One Shell Plaza, Houston
  • BHP House, Melbourne (140 William Street)
  • First Wisconsin Center, Milwaukee
  • Control Data Corporation (CDC), Houston
  • One Shell Square, New Orleans
  • 1,450 foot Sears Tower, Chicago — the world’s tallest building from its completion in 1974 until 1996
  • Baxter Corporate Headquarters, West Deerfield Township, Illinois
  • Hajj Terminal, King Abdul Aziz International Airport (New Jeddah International Airport), Jeddah
  • Makkah Campus, King Abdul Aziz University, Makkah (Mecca; designed but not built)
  • Onterie Center, Chicago
  • 2,100 foot Chicago World Trade Center, Chicago (designed but not built)
Engineering Architecture: The Vision of Fazlur R. Khan

Engineering Architecture: The Vision of Fazlur R. Khan has received some wonderful reviews, primarily from architecture and engineering journals. These encouraging reviews highlight my father’s place in Chicago history and his role as a world leader in the design field. Here are a few excerpts:

“Seldom is the life and work of a design engineer described so abundantly… [V]ery personable story of a driven technician with a deep love of his profession… The book reads like a novel. The accompanying photos of his wife and daughter at numerous construction sites and gatherings adds to the whole story.” —Bouwen met Staal (Netherlands)

“Yasmin Sabina Khan has written an engaging intellectual biography of her father, the acclaimed civil engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan… This lengthy book is rich with ideas relevant to historians of technology… She chose an excellent variety of illustrations… Khan’s carefully researched work contributes substantially to the literature on mid-twentieth century large-scale building.” —Technology and Culture

“[S]he reveals aspects of Khan’s personal character and collaborative spirit… Khan’s book is an inspiration to the engineer as well as the architect.” —Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

“[A] much needed book… The prose reads swiftly, the chapters are well organized, and, most important, the stories they narrate are compelling.” —Journal of Architectural Education

The conclusion of this review is especially meaningful to me:
“Khan also must have been a human being of extraordinary spiritual depth. He appears as a model of what many would like to be.”

Dr. Khan and Yasmin in the mid-1970s.

As I explain in my Preface to the book, I have attempted to record the significance of my father’s accomplishments while shedding light on the indescribable creative process by exploring how my father defined and worked through his design problems. I am sincerely pleased to know that within his experience readers have discovered not only example but also inspiration.

One Response to Books: The John Hancock Center & Engineering Architecture

  1. Wow! Finally I got a website from where I can genuinely get useful
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