The Man who Changed Skyscrapers Forever

Ah yes, a skyscraper. The international symbol for greatness, opulence, and most of all, wonder. The most beautiful cities in the world all have one thing in common, and that is that they feature a bewildering architectural feat that invites millions of onlookers every year.

Admiring these skyscrapers invites myriad questions into our minds; how does it stand so tall? How was it built? What is it like at the top? Who enabled such an enterprise?

Well, let’s explore the last question.

The Sears or Willis Tower in Chicago was the tallest building in the world for 25 years and laid the foundation for all the other super-skyscrapers that followed it. The designer and architect, Fazlur Rahman Khan, changed the world’s perception of tall buildings and inspired other engineers to attempt their own endeavours. Khan designed both the Willis Tower and John Hancock Center (now 875 North Michigan Avenue), two esteemed skyscrapers in the iconic Chicago Skyline.

Willis Tower, left. John Hancock Center, right.

Born in Bangladesh and having attended a civil engineering school, Khan was awarded the honorary Fulbright Scholarship and a scholarship from the Pakistani Government. These enabled him to study in the USA, where he attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign!

Khan innovated tube structural systems, and is known as the “father of tubular design.” This is the method he used to design and build the Willis Tower and John Hancock Center. The Tube Structure System consists of a group of narrow steel cylinders that are clustered together to form a thicker column. This minimizes the amount of steel needed for high towers, eliminates internal wind braces, and permits freer organization of the interior space. He also used X-Bracing (pictured below) to reduce the lateral load on a building by transferring the load into the exterior columns.

Khan’s achievements don’t stop there. He is the architect of the Hajj Terminal at King Abdulaziz International Airport.

Over 3 million Muslims attend Hajj every year (at the same time), and they all enter through the magnificent tent-like structure innovated by Khan. The

Hajj Terminal was so amazing that it earned the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and was described as an “outstanding contribution to architecture for Muslims.”

Without Fazlur Rahman Khan, the world wouldn’t have its most precious and ostentatious buildings like the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) or One World Trade Center. It’s our duty as citizens of the world to keep his legacy and innovation alive and well known.

As a Muslim in America, I am inspired and proud of Khan for his achievements and innovation.

Let’s admire that Chicago Skyline again.

I made a video about Fazlur Rahman Khan many years ago that you can watch below. Go check it out to learn more, and let me know how you like it!

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