John Hancock Center

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175 East Delaware Place, Chicago, IL

John Hancock Center

The John Hancock Center
Building Information
Developer Jerry Wolman
Architect Skidmore, Owings And Merrill LLP
Number of Units 711
Number of Floors 100
Year Built 1970
Construction Method Steel
Type of Roof IRMA
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175 East Delaware Place, Chicago, IL
Distance to Public Transit 24 bus and rail routes within one quarter of a mile
Region Chicago
Municipality Chicago
Zoning DX12
Title of Land Condominium



Completed in 1970, the John Hancock Center stands as one of the most celebrated addresses for both condominium residents and businesses. With its solid steel construction, significant architecture and spectacular views of four states, this building's presence in the Chicago skyline is an american icon.

Gold Coast Area and John Hancock Center at Night
The John Hancock Center is likely the second most identifiable building in the Chicago after the Sears Tower. It is one of the tallest skyscrapers in the nation. Not only does it provide residents with some of the best views in the city, but its central location makes it a prime address too. Located at the northern end of Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile, the Hancock Center is situated in the heart of the Gold Coast neighborhood.

The Gold Coast is part of Chicago's Near North Side community, with rough boundaries at North Avenue, Lake Shore Drive, Oak Street, and Clark Street. The Gold Coast was established after the Great Chicago Fire when, in 1882, millionaire Potter Palmer moved to the area and built the Palmer Mansion, a 42 room mansion resembling a castle designed by Henry Ives Cobb and Charles Sumner Frost. Other wealthy Chicago residents followed Potter into the neighborhood, which became one of the wealthiest in Chicago.

In the late 1980s, the Gold Coast was the second most affluent neighborhood in the United States, behind Manhattan's Upper East Side. Today, the neighborhood is a mixture of mansions, row houses, and high-rise apartments. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.[1]


John Hancock Center is located on the block bounded by North Michigan Avenue to the west, East Chestnut Street to the south and East Delaware Place to the north. The entrance to the commercial part of the building is on Michigan Avenue while the entrance for the residences is on the north side of the building at 175 East Delaware Place. This location is at the North End of Chicago's Magnificent Mile on North Michigan Avenue.

The Magnificent Mile, also known as The Mag Mile, is a prestigious stretch of Chicago's Michigan Avenue, running from the Chicago River to Oak Street in the Near North Side. The district is located next to downtown, and one block east of Rush Street, which is a popular destination for its nightlife.

The Magnificent Mile, named by real estate developer Arthur Rubloff in the 1940s, is Chicago's largest shopping district with a healthy mix of mid and high range stores. Restaurants, museums and hotels round out the offerings available to residents and visitors alike. Several of the tallest buildings in the United States, such as the John Hancock Center and the Trump International Hotel and Tower, are found in the area as well as a number of famous landmarks that are located along the Magnificent Mile, such as the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, the Chicago Water Tower and the Allerton Hotel.[2]


The John Hancock Center was designed by engineer Fazlur Kahn and architect Bruce Graham from architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Mr. Kahn devised a steel frame-tube system, which he also implemented in the construction of the famous Sears Tower.

John Hancock Center during construction
This new method of construction was possible because of new technologies, such as advanced software and new developments in steel composition. The new construction method made it possible for Kahn to design buildings that could resist the strong Chicago wind forces more effectively by having the forces absorbed by all three dimensions of the building. The diagonal braces are connected to the exterior columns, making it possible for the forces to be carried over from the braces to the columns and back. This innovative construction resulted in a 50% decrease in the amount of steel required for the building compared to skyscrapers built with interior columns.[3]

The building was originally intended to be developed as several smaller buildings having different functions but within the same parcel of land. The project developer wanted a 50 storey office tower (1 million sq.ft.) along with a 70 storey residential complex (also 1 million sq.ft.) and 800,00 sq.ft. of combined commercial space and parking. However, Graham and Kahn proposed a plan that called for stacking all of these components into a single 100 storey tower of comparable square footage

The five X shaped braces on each side stretch from floors 2 to 20, 21 to 37, 38 to 55, 56 to 74, and 75 to 91. A half-X extends from 92 to 97. The building tapers on all four sides, narrowing by a total of 105 feet on the east & west sides and 65 feet on the north & south. Floor space goes from 40,000 square feet of space at the base to 18,000 square feet at the summit. The tapered design further enhances stability in the wind. The floor-plates do not transfer wind loads to the structural core as in most skyscrapers, thus it is possible to create a two-story space by cutting out the floor almost anywhere in the building.

In order to reach the dizzying height of 1,127 feet, engineers knew that the staggeringly heavy 384 million pound tower needed caissons to prevent it from sinking into Chicago's soft ground. The John Hancock Center rests on several caissons that extend down to bedrock, one of which actually reaches 191 feet below the ground making it the deepest ever sunk in Chicago.

The base facade was originally clad in white travertine, but this was later replaced with a much darker granite. The black anodized aluminum facade starts at the second floor. The interior of the building remodeled in 1995, adding travertine, black granite and textured limestone surfaces to the lobby.

In 1999 this building became the 30th recipient of the American Institute of Architects' prestigious Twenty-Five Year Award.

Layout and Features

The John Hancock Center is over 40 years old thus the vast majority of units will have been remodeled and updated by this time. In order to fit the structural frame, the floors at the top of each X brace have extra height ceilings which adds significantly to their property value. Instead of balconies, about one-third of the apartments have "sky terraces", a tiled sun-room separated from living spaces by glass doors.

The tapered structure of the building produces sloped windows which help to reduce the feeling of vertigo for people looking out of high floors. The tapering walls also produce space constraints so common hallways and elevator lobbies are narrower on higher floors.[4]

Floor Plans

The John Hancock Center features a mix of Studio, one, two and three bedroom apartments. There are also several four bedroom units that were created by combining existing smaller apartments.


The John Hancock Center offers a wealth of amenities and conveniences right in the building. The world famous observation deck is on the 100th floor and the building sports a fins restaurant, the famous Signature Room, on the 95th and 96 floors. A retail level is home to shops and services such as a Best Buy, Aveda and Chase Bank.

Amenities for residents include a health club, a swimming pool on the 44th floor (America's highest indoor swimming pool), and even an ice-skating rink with an artificial surface that allows skating at room temperature. The building has a doorman and concierge, a hospitality room and a laundry room is available.


John Hancock Center Bylaws
Rentals Yes
Pets Yes
Age No

The John Hancock Center does not restrict the age of residents. Cats are welcome but dogs are not allowed in the building. Units may be rented but there is a soft cap on the number of units allowed to be leased in the building and a minimum 12 month lease term is applicable. The building's board must also approve the sale of units. For those who wish to maintain their 1970s and 1980s decor, water beds are not allowed in the building.


The John Hancock Center was built more than 40 years ago so it was not conceived as a "green" building. However, It's externally braced design means that about 50% less metal was used in the construction compared with a typical steel framed tower. So that qualifies as somewhat green for it's time even though the motivation was likely more financial than environmental. Residents may take steps in their own lives to live a more sustainable life.

Residents may make personal lifestyle choices in order to pursue a green lifestyle or just reduce their carbon footprint. Some examples might include:

  • Taking steps to learn more about sustainable living. You can read up on the subject of environmentalism, and how your personal carbon footprint can affect global pollution levels. There are plenty of resources available online or at your local library.
  • Save energy. The most effective way to cut down on your carbon emissions is to conserve electricity in your home. Install energy-efficient light bulbs, turn lights off when they aren’t in use and keep your energy consumption to a minimum.
  • Choose the right clothing. Your clothing can make an impact on the environment. One of the most heavily sprayed crops across the globe is cotton. Fortunately, there are other alternative fabrics available in the market; such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and flax. Try to find and purchase clothing that uses these natural and nontoxic materials.[5]


Comedian Chris Farley
  • A band of white lights on the 99th floor of the building is visible across Chicago at night and changes colors for different events. At Christmas time the colors are green and red. When a Chicago-area sports team goes far in the playoffs, the colors are changed to match the team's colors. It takes two people 40 hours each to change all the light bulbs in the Crown of Lights.
  • With some of the fastest elevators in the country,passengers arrive at the Observatory in 39 seconds.
  • If all the metal in John Hancock Center were melted it could be used make 96 tour buses.
  • There are 1632 steps from the main lobby to the observatory on level 94.[6]
  • Jerry Springer, host of The Jerry Springer Show, maintains a residence on the 91st floor. Prior to comedian Chris Farley's death, the two lived in adjacent residences.
  • The observation floor features the highest balcony in America, a screened-in area called the "Skywalk".
  • For the first few years of the building's existence there was a private restaurant in the skylobby called Club 44, for the exclusive use of residents and their guests. Its food was supplied by the public restaurant upstairs.


  1. Wikipedia
  2. Wikipedia
  3. A View on Cities
  4. Emporis
  5. BBC Wikihow
  6. John Hancock Center Website

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