You have your John Hancock, this one is mine

Isn’t it something? It represents America to me. A calculated gamble. A few missteps on the way to 1,127 feet. This beast, the most masculine building ever constructed, will celebrate it’s 50th birthday in four years. No gray hair yet. Aay, she’s a beauty. john hancock

El Rey de Chicago

El Rey de Chicago

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.

Bookends, how two men framed a city

Bookends, how two men framed a city

Architectural engineer Fazlur Khan and architect Bruce Graham of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, designed the John Hancock Building to the right (North) and soon thereafter designed the Sears Tower to the left (South). I don’t believe the buildings were located by accident as the Chicago skyline falls between the two.

John Hancock – Chicago

John Hancock - Chicago

When clouds drift across the top 100 feet of the John Hancock Building a reverse draft is created on the opposite side of the building where a plume of cloud will often circle and re-circle in the same general area for minutes at a time or until a breeze from a different direction hits the building. It’s especially interesting looking from inside the building on the observation deck. There may be beautiful blue skies on three sides of the building and then what looks like a storm brewing on the fourth side. The Hancock may not create weather, but it alters it at 1,100 feet. On the next partly cloudy day with a mild wind, look up and watch something remarkable. Besides, it’s a good neck stretch.

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