Brown ones and round ones, short, stout, square and tall, and then there’s the Hancock, greater than all. A building. So what. It can stir child’s spirit, ambitious, aspire, inspire and make people a half mile away remember wonder. I love it because it’s a beacon and an archive of what and who we used to be. Decisions were made years at a time, not on the two year pathetic cycle of congressional races that forces decent men and women to continually posture and search for the worst in others. The Hancock was a huge gamble. So Skidmore huddled a mini Manhattan project. American guts, calculated gamblers and thousands of workers no better or worse than anyone else. The 22-year-old guys that walked those beams with swagger in ’67, ’68 and “69 are the only ones left from the project. They worked for 35 or 40 or maybe 26 years. What they share in common is the knowledge they helped build that building. Each of them talks as if they own it. And they do. At least part of it. They remember a 10 hours shift and afterward talk in the construction yard and glimpses of Bruce Graham and a hug from Fazlur Kahn, the humble and brilliant architect from the portion of Pakistan that eventually became Bangladesh. What could be more American than a migrant helping to shape the country. The John Hancock topped off in 1969.
A few weeks later, Apollo 11 touched down on the moon and Neil Armstrong talked about a giant step. There were a few of those giants steps in 1969 and the John Hancock is one of them.