THE GENIUS engineer behind the Sears Tower and Chicago’s John Hancock Centre has been celebrated with a Google Doodle.
Pioneering architect Fazlur Rahman Khan would have marked his 88th birthday on April 3. Khan is best known as the creator of the “tube” structural system, which is used by most tall buildings to this day. He designed the Sears Tower (now called Willis Tower) and John Hancock Center in Chicago, but the influence of his work has extended around the globe.
Khan studied Civil Engineering in Bengal Engineering College Shibpur in India before he received his Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from Ahsanullah Engineering College, University of Dhaka.
He was given a scholarship that allowed him to the travel to the US in 1952 where he started two master’s degrees – one in structural engineering and one in theoretical and applied mechanics.
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. 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.
That Khan’s skyscraper designs are still used today make him one of the most influential architects and engineers in history. He was also a pioneer in using computer-aided design (CAD), as well as providing humanitarian aid during Bangladesh’s war of independence.
Khan died in 1982 of a heart attack while on a trip in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, at the age of 52. He was mentioned by Barack Obama in 2009 as an example of Muslims’ contributions to America.