John Hancock Center

John Hancock Center
  1. About the John Hancock Center in Chicago
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The John Hancock Center is an International Style skyscraper designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, with Bruce Graham as lead architect, and built between 1965 and 1969 in Chicago, IL.

John Hancock Center is not the only name you might know this building by though. It is common for companies to want to attach their names to iconic buildings when they move in, or for the general public to come up with nicknames, and this one is no exception. The building has changed names several times over the years, and is also known as:

  • John Hancock Center between 1969 and 2018.
  • 875 North Michigan Avenue from 2018 until this day.

Its precise street address is 875 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

The building is one of the most famous examples of structural expressionist architecture, and one of the most iconic landmarks in Chicago's skyline.

The silhouette of the building is that of a truncated pyramid, which makes the Hancock Center one of the most distinguishable buildings not only in Chicago's skyline, but in the world.

Private access to the condominiums is provided through a separate entrance at 175 Delaware.

The building underwent a major restoration in 1995.

Building's timeline

Construction begins
John Hancock Center
875 North Michigan Avenue
years ago
  1. 1995 - The interior was remodeled, adding travertine, black granite and textured limestone surfaces to the lobby.

Architect and team

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, with Bruce Graham as the lead architect, was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design.

Commonly known as SOM, the firm was founded in Chicago in 1936 and has grown to be one of the largest architecture firms in the world.

Even long after its founders passed away, SOM has remained at the top of worldwide architectural excellence by attracting visionary architects. Amongst their most notorious partners we find names such as Gordon Bunshaft, Bruce Graham, Walter Netsch, Adrian Smith, Myron Goldsmith or David Childs.

SOM has also managed to grow and evolve to tackle the architectural challenges of each time, whatever those might be, and today is committed to aspects as important as efficiency and sustainability, as core values of their designs.

With a legacy spanning decades, SOM continues to shape the skylines of cities around the world, and is a usual contestant in any competition or selection process to design large-scale or iconic buildings and structures.

Skidmore Owings Merrill

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline, which usually involves many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but here is a list of the people we do know also played their part in making the John Hancock Center a reality:

  • Fazlur Rahman Khan, and Srinivasa Iyengar in charge of Structural Engineering
  • Tishman Construction Co as the Main Contractor
  • Otis as the company in charge of the elevators system
  • John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company as the Main Developer

Architectural Style

The John Hancock Center can be categorized as an International Style building.

The international style originated in Europe in the early 20th century, and made its way to the US a couple of decades later when the rise of the Nazi regime forced figures such as Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, or Mies van der Rohe to flee Europe.

The International Style emerged as a response to the prevailing historicism and ornate architecture styles of the late 19th century, which according to a younger generation of architects didn't represent the new materials and construction techniques that were on the rise at the time.

Architecture in the early 20th century US was marked by the adoption of steel structures, modern construction techniques, and the rise of the skyscraper. As it turns out, this combination of circumstances created the perfect ecosystem for the International Style to flourish, becoming the to-go style for skyscraper designs during the mid-20th century, when American cities were growing fast.

The International Style’s legacy can not only be found in numerous iconic buildings across all major American cities, but also incorporated in contemporary architecture, which still puts a big emphasis on functionality and minimalism.

The John Hancock Center was completed in 1969. By 1969 the International Style movement had already left its early days behind and could be considered a mature movement, which does not mean it was loved and accepted by everyone, on the contrary. The International Style was accepted by the architecture community way before it was by the general public, and it is therefore likely that the John Hancock Center was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The John Hancock Center reaches an architectural height of 1129ft (344m), 1499ft (457m) if you count the antenna, with the last accesible floor being 1053ft (321m) off the gorund. It has a total of 101 floors, 100 above ground and 1 basements, served by 50 elevators.

If you want to get a nice view of Chicago the John Hancock Center offers an observatory deck. You can plan your visit to the 360 Chicago by visiting its website here.

In regards to parking space, the building has a total of 710 spots available, which roughly equals 7 spots per floor (above ground).

, with other complementary uses such as commercial, and residential spaces.

1499ft (457m)
1129ft (344m)
1053ft (321m)
1 basements

Materials & Structure

The John Hancock Center uses a trussed tube-in-tube structure , with steel columns and concrete slabs.

A trussed tube-in-tube structure uses a central core, known as inner tube, which usually holds stairs, lifts and installations, and a perimeter of columns around it, which form the exterior tube. The interior tube is tipically more massive (often made of reinforced concrete), and the exterior tube is "lighter" (made of steel or concrete columns). Both tubes are conencted via horizontal elements which make up the floors and also transmit any horizontal froces from the facade to the core.

The facade of the building is load bearing. This is a direct consequence of the integration of the exterior "tube" into the facade, something which most trussed tube-in-tube buildings do in order to liberate the interior space from structural elements and achieve a more flexible interior.

So the facade of the builing is techinically load-bearing, yes, however, in between the load-bearing colums we find a window-wall type of facade, which by itself would not be cosnidered load-bearing.

The John Hancock Center was an engineering pioneer, as it was the first to utilize the exterior structural system of diagonal tubes, developed specifically for this building, and which we now refer to as trussed structure. It is an evolution of the framed tube system, which allows for wider column spacings and, in turn, larger windows.

At the Hancock Center, each pair of diagonally braced tubes spans 18 floors, providing structural support. The columns, beams, and diagonal tubes are connected by heavy steel reinforcement plates

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features dark tinted glass in anodized aluminum frames, and the trussed structure we already mentioned, painted in black.