8 Things You Should Know About Fazlur Khan, Skyscraper Genius

8 Things You Should Know About Fazlur Khan, Skyscraper Genius

When it comes to skyscraper architects, the first name that comes to mind is often Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. No firm has completed more supertall buildings than SOM, and to this day, they remain a leader in the field, designing both the western hemisphere’s and the world’s tallest buildings in One World Trade Center and the Burj Khalifa. Yet, arguably, the height of their powers came in the 1970s, directly following a lull in skyscraper construction that allowed the Empire State Building to retain the status of world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years.

It was then that Falzur Khan, a SOM architect and structural engineer, came up with the structural innovation that revolutionized the skyscraper industry, leaving lasting impacts on the construction methods of supertall buildings today.

Drawing from a recent story published by Mental Floss on the designer, we’ve come up with a list of facts about his life and role in the world of architecture.

Continue reading for the 8 things you should know about Falzur Khan.

© flickr user dtburkett. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    1. Khan was the lead structural engineer on two of the tallest skyscrapers of the 1970s, both found in Chicago: the John Hancock Center (1969) and the Sears Tower (1973, now known as the Willis Tower)

    2. He didn’t see his first skyscraper in person until he was 21 years old. Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the tallest building in his hometown measured only 3 stories.

    3. Khan was the first to discover that building a skyscraper in the the shape of a tube could greatly reduce material size and weight. His buildings were supported not by an inner grid of concrete and steel, like the Empire State Building, but by their facades.

    4. For the Hancock Center design, Khan introduced SOM to computer modeling techniques for the first time, hiring two programming experts to calculate difficult equations in record time. The engineers left soon after to work on another revolutionary project, Star Wars.

    5. To understand how wind and building sway would affect users in the upper floors of his skyscrapers, Khan placed test subjects into a bathtub placed on top of rotating platform designed to mimic the oscillating motion of a Maytag washing machine.

    6. His strategy for visualizing structural diagrams bore a striking similarity to method acting: “I put myself in the place of a whole building, feeling every part,” Khan said in an interview with Engineering News-Record. “In my mind I visualize the stresses and twisting a building undergoes.”

    7. Khan died of a heart attack in 1982, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where today, construction is underway on the Kingdom Tower, which will become the world’s tallest building upon its completion in 2020.

    8. Founded in 2004, The Fazlur Khan Lifetime Achievement Medal is awarded by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat for individuals who have “demonstrated excellence in technical design and/or research that has made a significant contribution to a discipline for the design of tall buildings and the built urban environment” throughout their careers.

© flickr user s_v_p. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

You can find the full story on Fazlur Khan’s role in the construction the John Hancock Tower on Mental Floss’s website, here.

About this author
Cite: Patrick Lynch. "8 Things You Should Know About Fazlur Khan, Skyscraper Genius" 18 Aug 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/793577/8-things-you-should-know-about-fazlur-khan-skyscraper-genius> ISSN 0719-8884

© flickr user achimh. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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