Birthday tribute

April 4, 2020

April 3 is my father’s birthday – he would be 91. I appreciate and am very happy to see the Chicago History Museum’s tribute to my father on its blog, “Chicago Stories Every Day.”

The Father of Modern Skyscrapers

Chicago Stories Every Day

In Chicago, everyone looks up to the work of Fazlur Rahman Khan, the structural engineer for the Sears Tower and John Hancock Center. Born on this day in 1929 in Bangladesh, Khan came to the United States to study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned two master’s degrees and a PhD. He then joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, where his innovative work ushered in a new era of skyscrapers. Next time you’re on Franklin Street adjacent to the Willis Tower, you’ll see that it has the honorary designation of “Fazlur R. Khan Way.” Learn more about Chicago’s architectural history.

These Four Design Ideas Turned ‘The Hancock Center’ Into An Iconic Skyscraper
This episode in Chicago radio station WBEZ’s Curious City series responds to a listener’s question about Chicago’s John Hancock Center.


Google Doodle

April 5, 2017

The Doodle is now in Google’s Doodle Archive, Fazlur Rahman Khan’s 88th Birthday.

I wrote a short post to accompany the Doodle. It will be archived with the Doodle in Google’s Doodle Archive.

As a youth my father never imagined that one day he would be building skyscrapers. He was born in East Bengal, British India, which became East Pakistan in 1947 and then Bangladesh in 1971. Graduate studies first brought him to the United States and the promise of challenging work drew him to a busy design office in Chicago – that of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill – where he remained until his death in 1982. A surge in demand for residential and office space in the 1960s and early 1970s made tall buildings desirable, but traditional design and construction methods were uneconomical, having evolved for shorter structures. He recognized that a new approach to skyscraper design was needed and set his mind to the task.

In 1972, at 42 years old, he was named Construction’s Man of the Year by Engineering News-Record. His pioneering work in skyscraper design was rejuvenating the design profession as he developed new ways of framing tall buildings, dramatically improving structural efficiency and economy. In 1965 he had initiated the “trussed tube” structural system with his design for Chicago’s 100-story John Hancock Center. By 1971 he was designing the world’s tallest building, the Sears Tower, using his latest innovation, the “bundled tube” (the Sears Tower, now Willis Tower, remained the “world’s tallest” for the next 22 years). His innovations subsequently formed the basis of tall building design.

A humanitarian in his personal as well as professional life, he was inspired by the belief that his work had a positive impact and he encouraged other engineers not to lose track of the purpose of their profession. When he was named Construction’s Man of the Year, he reflected, “The technical man must not be lost in his own technology. He must be able to appreciate life, and life is art, drama, music and, most importantly, people.”

Birthday tribute

April 3, 2017

Today’s Google Doodle is a wonderful tribute to my father on his birthday. Be sure to see it!

Google Doodle for Fazlur Khan

Google’s Birthday Tribute to Fazlur Khan

Lecture series at Lehigh

March 22, 2016

I am so pleased that John Zils will be the Fazlur Rahman Khan Distinguished Lecture Series speaker next month. He worked closely with my father at SOM and was a tremendous support for me when I was working on Engineering Architecture: The Vision of Fazlur R. Khan.

Graceland Cemetery

May 28, 2015

A couple of people have asked me recently whether it is all right for admirers of my father to visit his grave. Yes, certainly – I am glad friends and admirers visit. The cemetery also welcomes visitors. I only ask that, if you want to take flowers, please take cut flowers. The cemetery does not allow visitors to dig or plant in the ground.

A Walk Through Graceland Cemetery

A Walk Through Graceland Cemetery, guide to Graceland Cemetery by Barbara Lanctot, published by the Chicago Architecture Foundation (2011)

The Chicago Architecture Foundation publishes a nice guide to Graceland Cemetery. The book includes a map of the garden-style cemetery and descriptions of selected gravesites. A number of architects and engineers are buried at Graceland, including William Le Baron Jenney, Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Bruce Graham’s memorial stone is next to my father’s gravesite.

This is the description for my father.

Fazlur Khan, in A Walk Through Graceland Cemetery, A Chicago Architecture Foundation Tour

A Walk Through Graceland Cemetery, A Chicago Architecture Foundation Tour

Fazlur Khan, in A Walk Through Graceland Cemetery, A Chicago Architecture Foundation Tour (on pages 50 & 51)

The entrance to Graceland Cemetery is located at 4001 N. Clark Street. There is an office just inside the entrance where you can ask for directions (call about hours, the phone number is (773) 525-1105). Also, if you’re interested in the Chicago Architecture Foundation guide, the office has the book for sale.