The John Hancock Center, at 875 North Michigan Avenue in the Streeterville area of Chicago, Illinois, United States, is a 100-story, 1,127-foot (344 m) tall skyscraper, constructed under the supervision of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, with chief designer Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Khan. When the building topped out on May 6, 1968, it was the tallest building in the world outside New York City. It is currently the fourth-tallest building in Chicago and the sixth-tallest in the United States, after the Willis Tower, the Empire State Building, the Bank of America Tower, the Trump Tower Chicago, and the Aon Center. When measured to the top of its antenna masts, it stands at 1,506 feet (459 m). The building is home to offices and restaurants, as well as about 700 condominiums, and contains the third highest residence (above adjacent ground level) in the world, after the Trump Tower (also in Chicago), and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The building was named for John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, a developer and original tenant of the building.
The 95th floor has long been home to a restaurant, the latest tenant being "The Signature Room on the 95th Floor". The 44th-floor sky lobby features America's highest indoor swimming pool.
The project, which would at that time become the world's tallest building, was originally conceived of and owned by Jerry Wolman in late 1964, the project being financed by John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. Construction of the tower was interrupted in 1967 due to a flaw in an innovative engineering method used to pour concrete in stages that was discovered when the building was 20 stories high. The engineers were getting the same soil settlements for the 20 stories that had been built as what they had expected for the entire 99 stories. This forced the owner to stop development until the engineering problem could be resolved, and resulted in a credit crunch. This situation is similar to the one currently being experienced with the construction of Waterview Tower. The owner went bankrupt, which resulted in John Hancock taking over the project, which retained the original design, architect, engineer, and main contractor.
The building's first resident was Ray Heckla, the original building engineer, responsible for the residential floors from 44 to 92. Heckla moved his family in April 1969, before the building was completed.
On November 11, 1981, Veterans Day, high-rise firefighting and rescue advocate Dan Goodwin, for the purpose of calling attention to the inability to rescue people trapped in the upper floors of skyscrapers, successfully climbed the building's exterior wall. Wearing a wetsuit and using a climbing device that enabled him to ascend the I-beams on the building's side, Goodwin battled repeated attempts by the Chicago Fire Department to knock him off. Fire Commissioner William Blair ordered Chicago firemen to stop Goodwin by directing a fully engaged fire hose at him and by blasting fire axes through nearby glass from the inside. Fearing for Goodwin's life, Mayor Jane Byrne intervened and allowed him to continue to the top.
On March 9, 2002, part of a scaffold fell 43 stories after being torn loose by wind gusts around 60 mph (96 km/h), crushing several cars and killing three people in two of them. The remaining part of the stage swung back-and-forth in the gusts repeatedly slamming against the building, damaging cladding panels, breaking windows, and sending pieces onto the street below.
On December 10, 2006, the non-residential portion of the building was sold by San Francisco based Shorenstein Properties LLC for $385 million and was purchased by a joint venture of Chicago-based Golub & Company and the Whitehall Street Real Estate Funds. Shorenstein had bought the building in 1998 for $220 million.
One of the most famous buildings of the structural expressionist style, the skyscraper's distinctive X-bracing exterior is actually a hint that the structure's skin is indeed part of its 'tubular system'. This is one of the architectural techniques which the architects used to achieve a record height (the tubular system is the structure that keeps the building upright during wind and earthquake loads). This X-bracing allows for both higher performance from tall structures and the ability to open up the inside floorplan. Such original features have made the John Hancock Center an architectural icon. It was pioneered by Bangladeshi-American structural civil engineer Fazlur Khan and chief architect Bruce Graham.
The interior was remodeled in 1995, adding to the lobby travertine, black granite and textured limestone surfaces. The elliptical-shaped plaza outside the building serves as a public oasis with seasonal plantings and a 12-foot (3.7 m) waterfall. A band of white lights at the top of the building is visible all over Chicago at night and changes colors for different events. For example, at Christmastime 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.
The building is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers. It has won various awards for its distinctive style, including the Distinguished Architects Twenty-five Year Award from the American Institute of Architects in May 1999.