Fazlur Rahman Khan has changed the world with his design of skyscrapers. He is arguably most famous for either designing the Sears tower or revolutionizing the entire world of skyscrapers as a whole. The master builder has even been compared to Albert Einstein in the world of structural engineering. His feats go beyond creating the structural systems of tall buildings.
Fazlur Rahman Khan
Khan was born in 1929 in a part of India that is now Bangladesh, and he grew up in the small village of Bhandarikandii near Dhaka. His father was a math teacher so Khan grew up around statistics and numbers. He went on to study Civil Engineering, graduating with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from Ahsanullah Engineering College, University of Dhaka. He then went to the United States in 1952 obtaining two master’s degrees and then a PhD in structural engineering.
Fazlur Rahman Khan’s famous work includes his invention of the “tube” structure on tall buildings. This tube structure comes from the idea that a building is to be supported on the outside instead of just on the inside with concrete and steel. The world’s tallest building in Dubai, the Burj Khalifa follows this design. In the early 1950s Khan worked with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Chicago, Illinois. It was there his design form was born. He designed a building using his concept of being supported by an exterior frame instead of a central support system of steel. It was built with vertical tubing in the hopes that damage from high winds would not produce structural damage. It would also allow the center of the building to be used for space instead of a support system. The first building to use his design was the DeWitt-Chestnut building in Chicago.
The John Hancock Centre was built in 1965 in Chicago using this technique. Khan worked with architect Bruce Graham designing the Sears Tower in Chicago. He used the bundled tube structure design on the world’s tallest building. Until 1998, this 1729 foot tall building was the tallest in the world, and still one of the most recognized skyscrapers in the world.
The concept of a tubular design is important to resist strong forces in tall buildings. As building height increases, exterior forces like wind and seismic activity threaten the structure as a whole. Khan’s design of tube structures meant that buildings are stiff, strong, efficient and don’t need as much material to construct them. The buildings can be much taller using this design. Using steel and concrete, a building can reach great heights without fear of failure in weather. One of Khan’s most famous designs was the bundled tube structure. It was used to build the Newport Tower in Jersey City, the Sears Tower and the One Magnificent Mile. It meant these towers no longer had to look like a box. Each could take different shapes bundled together making it innovative and efficient as a whole.
Khan may be famous for his structural engineering design, but he was also popular for his humanitarian efforts. In 1971 after the Bangladesh Liberation War began, he became an activist for the people. He created the Bangladesh Emergency Welfare Appeal to get emergency funding. Along with his wife (Liselotte Khan) and daughter, Khan tirelessly worked to enhance the lives of his people back home. Though his roots to home were strong, he also became a United States Citizen in 1967.
Khan’s wife, Liselotte who immigrated from Austria and together they had one daughter who was born in 1960. His daughter is still alive today and recently interviewed with Forbes on her father’s 88th birthday.
Fazlur Rahman Khan’s Legacy
Khan’s legacy lives on in the development of all buildings, not just the tallest in the world. His structural concepts are used when starting to design large architectural structures. Even the Bank of China Tower, the Petronas Towers and the World Trade Center used his designs. He died in 1982 of a heart attack, but lives on in his designs and personal work. His papers can be seen at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Fazlur Khan Collection at the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries include slides, audio tapes, sketches and manuscripts. Many think of Khan as the “Greatest Structural Engineer of the 20th Century.”
10 Quick Facts about Fazlur Rahman Khan
- He created some popular buildings: Some of his most known work is the Sears Tower and the 100-story John Hancock Center.
- Awards have been named after him: Due to his knowledge in skyscraper design and construction, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat created the Fazlur Khan Lifetime Achievement Medal.
- He did more than just towers: Fazlur name has also been linked to the Hajj airport terminal. The McMath-Pierce solar telescope, and several stadiums.
- He died in 1982: While on vacation in Jeddah, Fazlur suffered a heart attack that ended up being fatal. He was returned to the United States and was buried in Chicago.
- He developed the Shear Wall Frame Interaction System: The systems use combinations of shear walls and frames designed to resist lateral forces.
- His work is still used today: Today Fazlur’s work is being used as a starting point when considering design options for tall buildings. Structures like the World Trade Center, Ain Centre, Petronas Towers, Jin Mao Building, and the Bank of China Towers are all using his tube structure.
- He has won numerous awards: Among those awards is the Wason Medal and the Alfred Lindau Award from the American Concrete Institute.
- He is also computer smart: Fazlur began programming the SOM system to calculate structural engineering equations and later he used it to develop architectural drawings.
- His daughter carried on in his footsteps: Yasmin Sabrina Khan is the daughter of Fazlur Rahman Khan and has followed her father’s footsteps. She is educated in engineering and has written numerous books about her father and his accomplishments.
- Khan worked for the World-Famous Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill Architectural Firm: In 1955 he was hired by the firm located in Chicago. The firm is linked to designing buildings in Beijing, South Korea, Sweden, Los Angeles, New York, and Dubai.
While there’s not any credible resource regarding Fazlur Rahman Khan’s net worth, one can guess that his net worth might be low seven figures, considering his contribution to modern day science and patents he registered.