The John Hancock Center: Where 'Big John' meets the ground

May 18, 2010


(photo by Lee Bey)

The John Hancock Center--the dark, obelisk-like tower stitched up on all four sides with iconic x-bracing--is still a commanding presence on the city's skyline.

But what caught my attention recently wasn't how the 1,127 feet of offices, shops and residences scrape the sky, but how it all meets the ground. The world-famous 100-story building lands without much fanfare on a simple granite plaza that has a sunken portion. The muscular X-braces reach all the way down to just above the first floor.

I've always liked the spiraling parking ramp in the back...


(photo by Lee Bey)

...if‚  we ever stop driving cars as a society, maybe we can convert the parking ramp into an art museum. (I kid, I kid). Here's the east side of the bottom of the Hancock:


(photo by Lee Bey)

Designed by SOM, the Hancock was briefly the tallest building in Chicago when it was completed in 1970. It's fallen to fourth place since, bumped down by Aon Center, 200 E. Randolph in 1973, Willis Tower in 1974, then Trump Tower in 2008. How the world has grown: For a hot second, Hancock was the world's second-tallest building when its construction was topped out in 1969; today it is the 23rd (!) tallest on the planet, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.