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Tag: john hancock

Fearless window-worker 500 feet above Michigan Avenue

Fearing no heights, window worker makes repairs on the John Hancock Building
500 feet above Michigan Avenue, a window worker makes repairs on the John Hancock Building

It’s one thing to replace storm windows in Wicker Park or windshields in the  West Loop, but a window-worker at 500 feet faces a few additional challenges. It’s not quite a solitary job, window workers partner up. These guys aren’t bothered by phones, water cooler chatting or what’s for lunch. A mistake at 500 feet (or 1,127 feet, the height of Hancock) can be unforgiving. The advice given by a cop, be safe and buckle up is the mantra of the window crew. And that’s what they do, strap up. This job took place on the 44th floor on the East side of the John Hancock. The problem? The window sealant rotted resulting in water leakage. The Hancock turned 50 this year. More than 85 percent of the windows in the Hancock are originals, a testament to the architectural engineering of Chicago’s best.

In case anyone is interested in a high flying Chicago job. 

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Willis Tower – the building formerly known and loved as the Sears Tower

Muscle and masculinity personified

The Sears Tower construction crews broke ground in 1970 and the building topped off in 1973 becoming the tallest building in the United States, a title that stood for about 25 years. The Venerable architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merril took on project led by architect Bruce Graham and architectural engineer, Fazlur Khan. Khan invented a construction technique utilizing construction tubes. The Sears Tower is actually nine buildings connected to the main tower by Khan’s tubes. Kahn’s engineering brilliance lives on. There is not a skyscraper in the world that doesn’t tip a hat to the engineer.

Sears was once the retail king/queen of the world – the Amazon of shopping in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. . As its business model faded so did its need for office space and the company eventually ended up leaving the legacy landmark. United Airlines is now the largest tenant. Trivia. There are 40,000 fire detectors in the building.

The Sears Tower has a little brother named “Big John” also known as the John Hancock Building. Same architect, same architectural engineer and agency. The Hancock topped off in 1969. Construction on the Sears started in 1970.

Chicago is rich in great architecture, but the Sears Tower and the John Hancock continue to serve as the most identifiable buildings in the city and perhaps the country. Here’s to courage, ingenuity and risk taking in world class Chicago architecture.

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