Interesting Facts

The Making of an Icon

The developers of John Hancock Center were lucky to stumble on a team of architects ahead of their time, both in terms of engineering and design aesthetics. The team was headed by Bruce Graham (Architect and Design Partner) and Fazlur Khan (Chief Structural Engineer) of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, a firm known for their cost-efficient skyscrapers.

The design of the John Hancock Center was influenced by its unique site. Just off Lake Shore Drive, it is surrounded by huge, residential high-rise buildings and yet faces one of the city's most attractive commercial streets.

Design highlights

  • Building design eliminated the need for inner support beams, greatly increasing amount of available floor space.
  • Design also minimized the use of steel, saving an estimated $15 million.
  • The design concept allows only five to eight inches of sway in a 60mph wind; tested to withstand winds of 132 miles-per-hour.
  • The center occupies only 40% of site space, creating rare open space on a bustling thoroughfare.
  • The outer skin of high-density black aluminum contrasts with 11,459 extra-thick, glare-proof, bronze glass windowpanes.
  • The building is shaped like a wedge, creating the illusion that it is even taller. This was drafted to balance the need for extra parking/commercial space below, and, smaller residential areas above.
  • Gutsy, masculine design in the tradition of industrial Chicago.

Fun Facts - Did you Know...

  • Spiders grow bigger (lots bigger!) this high up. We would show you some photos but we don't want you having nightmares!
  • It takes two men 40 hours each to change all the light bulbs in the Crown of Lights, on the 99th floor.
  • With the nation's fastest elevators, you'll arrive at the Observatory in 39 seconds.
  • The hero of the movie Iron Man might be able to fly this high, but birds stop at about 500ft. So don't expect to see one eye-to-eye up here.
  • If you melted all the metal in John Hancock Center you could make 96 tour buses to transport the hardest rock bands!
  • There are 1632 steps from the main lobby to the observatory on level 94.
  • The observatory has the only open-air viewing deck in Chicago. They say fast-talking politicians gave the city its nickname, but up here, you might think otherwise.
  • During the 36 month construction period, some five million man-hours were required to complete the Center!