Childhood & Early Life
Fazlur Rahman Khan was born on the April 3, 1929, in the Bengal Presidency of British India, which eventually became East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), to Abdur Rahman Khan, a high-school mathematics teacher and textbook author. Khan's father later became the director of public instruction in Bengal.
Khan spent his formative years in the Bhandarikandii village of the Faridpur district in Bangladesh. He later attended the 'Armanitola Government High School' in Dhaka.
Following his civil engineering studies at the 'Bengal Engineering and Science University,' Shibpur, Calcutta (now Kolkata, India), he graduated with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from the 'Ahsanullah Engineering College' of the ‘University of Dhaka' in 1950.
After working as an assistant engineer for the local highway department and serving as a professor at the 'University of Dhaka,' in 1952, Khan was granted the American ‘Fulbright’ scholarship and a Pakistani scholarship to study at the 'University of Illinois' in Chicago.
Within 3 years, Khan graduated with two master's degrees: one in structural engineering and the other theoretical and applied mechanics. Additionally, he completed his PhD in structural engineering. His thesis focused on the design norms for rectangular prestressed concrete beams.
In 1967, Khan's architectural excellence earned him a nomination for the U.S. citizenship. He was granted the citizenship the same year.
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Khan briefly returned to Pakistan, where he was offered the top position of executive engineer of the ‘Karachi Development Authority.’ Unfortunately, he was utterly disappointed with the limitations of the job, as it restricted his engineering competency.
Frustrated, Khan returned to the U.S. and began working with the esteemed architectural and engineering firm named 'Skidmore, Owings & Merrill' (SOM) in Chicago in 1955. In 1966, he became a partner at the firm, a position he held until his death.
In 1963, his framed tube structural system began gaining prominence and was highly used in skyscraper designing and construction. The plan was first applied to the structure of 'The DeWitt–Chestnut Apartments,' designed by Fazlur Rahman Khan and erected in Chicago in 1963.
Khan's international style of modern architecture earned him worldwide recognition and was regarded as one of the finest until that point.
His next notable construction was the 100-story 'John Hancock Center' (which began in 1965 and was completed in 1969) in Chicago, a structural masterpiece integrating the ground-breaking concept of his trussed tube system (by applying X-bracing to the exterior of the tube). Khan and his partner Bruce Graham worked together on its primary design.
The 'John Hancock Center' also incorporated Khan's first-ever sky lobby.
His next structural marvel was the 110-story 'Sears Tower' (1973), the tallest building in the world from 1973 to 1998. It was Khan's first skyscraper to use his bundled tube structural system. Another structure to use this system was the 'One Magnificent Mile' (completed in 1983).
Two of his other structural marvels are the 'Hajj Terminal' of the 'King Abdul Aziz International Airport' (1976–1981) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and the 'King Abdul Aziz University.' Completed in 1977–1978, the former consists of tent-like roofs that are folded up when not in use. Khan received several awards, including the 'Aga Khan Award for Architecture,' for designing this marvel.
He also designed the 'Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome Stadium' in Minneapolis and the 'Baxter Travenol Laboratories' (along with Bruce Graham), in Deerfield, Illinois. The latter displays a jaw-dropping roof sus¬pended from cables.
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His other major engineering proj¬ects were the solar telescope at the 'Kitt Peak,' Arizona (designed by Myron Goldsmith), the 'United States Air Force Academy' in Colorado Springs (designed by Walter Netsch), and the 'U.S. Bank Center' in Milwaukee.
Additionally, Khan actively participated in several professional organizations. In 1973, he was named to the 'National Academy of Engineering.' He also served as the vice-chairman of the 'International Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat' from 1976 to 1979. He later became the chairman of the organization and continued serving in the position until his death.
Khan published over 75 technical papers in various engineering and architectural journals. He served as an adjunct professor of architecture at the 'Illinois Institute of Technology' in Chicago from 1961 until the time of his death.
Awards & Honors
Khan's excellence in the field of architecture and engineering was rewarded with numerous awards and honors from various esteemed organizations, such as the ‘American Society of Civil Engineers' (ASCE), the 'American Welding Society,' the 'American Concrete Institute' (ACI), and the 'International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering.'
Some of the notable awards won by him were the 'Wason Medal' (1971), the 'Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award' (1972), the 'Alfred Lindau Award' (1973), the 'Oscar Faber Medal' (1973), the 'Kimbrough Medal' (1973), the 'International Award of Merit in Structural Engineering' (1983), the 'AIA Institute Honor for Distinguished Achievement' (1983), the 'John Parmer Award' (1987), the 'Ernest Howard Award' (1997), the 'Chica¬goan of the Year in Architecture and Engineering' (1970), the 'Alumni Honor Award of the University of Illinois,' the 'State Service Award,' and the 'G. Brooks Earnest Award.'
Khan was featured on the list of the “Men Who Served the Best Interests of the Construction Industry” in 1966, 1969, and 1971. 'Engineering News Record' named him ''Construction's Man of the Year'' in 1972.
'Google' commemorated his 88th birthday (on April 3, 2017) by dedicating a “Google doodle” to him.
Personal Life & Death
Khan was married to Liselotte Khan, an Austrian immigrant. His daughter, Yasmin Khan (born in 1960), grew up to be a structural engineer and wrote the book titled 'Engineering Architecture: The Vision of Fazlur R. Khan.' Khan also had a stepson, Martin Reifschneider.
While on a vacation in Jeddah, Khan had a massive heart attack. He died on March 27, 1982, at the age of 52. He was buried in Chicago.
During the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, Khan raised emergency funds for Bengali people and established the Chicago-based organization called the 'Bangladesh Emergency Welfare Appeal.'
An avid music lover, Khan loved singing Rabindranath Tagore's songs.
Most of the buildings over 40 stories erected since the 1960s have deployed Khan's tube design. His tube-in-tube system was prominently used in the 'One Shell Plaza' and the 'Petronas Towers.'
Khan's outrigger and belt truss system were used in the construction of the 'BHP House' (renamed '140 William Street'), the 'First Wisconsin Center' (renamed 'U.S. Bank Center'), and the 'Shanghai World Financial Center.' His tube is featured prominently in the 'Onterie Center,' Chicago; the 'Citigroup Center,' New York; and the 'Bank of China Tower,' Hong Kong.
His idea of sky lobbies for space management has been used in the construction of some of the world's esteemed structures, such as the 'World Trade Center'; the 'Petronas Twin Towers,' Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1998); 'Taipei 101,' Taiwan (2004); and the 'Burj Khalifa,' United Arab Emirates (2010).