Legendary Tower designer Bruce Graham dies
Bruce Graham, a former partner at Skidmore Owings and Merrill and designer of the John Hancock Center and Sears Tower, died Saturday morning at his home in Hobe Florida.
A leading architect of the modern era, Graham joined SOM in 1951 and was design partner there from 1960 to 1989 a period in which the firm emerged as one of the most influential forces in western architecture. Mr Graham personally led the design of Chicago’s first two 100 storey buildings, the John Hancock Center competed in 1970 and the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) which opened in 1974. Globally, he left his mark on the skylines of many cities including Hong Kong, London, and Cairo among many others.
A proponent of Miesian design principles, Graham helped advance and broaden 'the Chicago School of Architecture', a bold style of commercial building based on steel-frame construction and spatial aesthetics. He believed buildings should reflect their cities, bring pride to their people and stand the test of time. Importantly, he believed the meaning of architecture lay beyond the buildings function. “We cannot explain every spatial move except that they must exist for the poetry to exist and for that purpose does the artist in us live”.
Of his contribution to Chicago, a 1990 article on Graham in Chicago Magazine characterized his work there as "defining the downtown” and described the Hancock Center and Sears Towers as “bookends” protecting the “jewels he cast in between, referring to such buildings as the Inland Steel Buildings, Madison Plaza, Three First National Plaza, the Richard J. Daley Center and the “great arched gates of the Midwest Stock Exchange.
In the course of SOM’s long existence, few architects have risen above the anonymous corporate environment that is SOM, to have singular recognition. Graham was one of them.
Graham, who was 84 at the time of his death, is survived by a son and two daughters. A memorial service will be held in Chicago.