It's been a tough stretch for muscular, brooding architecture. Last week, Raimund Abraham, the uncompromising architect of New York's Austrian Cultural Forum was killed in an automotive accident. This week, Bruce Graham, the SOM partner who collaborated with engineer Fazlur Kahn on the Sears and Hancock towers in Chicago, passed away.
"Big John," as the Hancock was called, was their best work, a tapered, hundred-story condo tower, with the X-braces of its "trussed tube" structure laid plainly bare on its facades. It is dark and imposing from the outside and comfortably modern within. (So, kind of like Chicago.) It has long been one of the city's best addresses, considered as such from the moment it opened, advertising the "world's highest residences." A few years ago I edited a book on the building, with photographs by Ezra Stoller and an introduction by Kahn's daughter, the architectural historian Yasmin Sabina Kahn. One favorite anecdote: the architect and engineer tested human response to the building's slight sway at a Maytag "Tale of the Tub" washing machine installation at the Chicago Museum of Science. A nice story for a sad day.
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