John Hancock Tower

John Hancock Tower

Infobox Skyscraper
building_name= Hancock Place

location= 200 Clarendon Street, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
roof= 790 ft (240.7 m)
height_stories= 60
construction_period= 1968 - 1976
use= Office
architect= I.M. Pei & Partners
developer= Beacon Capital Partners
Three different buildings in Boston, Massachusetts, have been known as the "John Hancock Building". All were built by the John Hancock Insurance companies. References to "the" John Hancock building usually refer to the 60-story, sleek glass building on Clarendon Street.

Hancock Place (the "John Hancock Tower")

The building known by Bostonians as the John Hancock Tower, or colloquially simply The Hancock, is officially named Hancock Place. It is a 60-story, 790-foot-tall (241 meter) skyscraper designed by I.M. Pei and Henry N. Cobb of the firm now known as Pei, Cobb and Freed and was completed in 1976. In 1977 the AIA presented Cobb with a National Honor Award for the John Hancock Tower. It is the tallest building in Boston, the tallest building in New England, and the 166th tallest building in the world.

Its street address is 200 Clarendon Street. The company uses both "Hancock Place" and "200 Clarendon Street" as mailing addresses for offices in the building. The John Hancock companies were the main tenants of the tower, but the insurance company announced in 2004 that some offices will relocate to a new building at 601 Congress Street. It sits prominently near Copley Square in Boston's Back Bay.

Like all large, heavily glazed buildings, the tower requires substantial air conditioning year round—even with its reflective walls. Its cooling system is similar to that used in the IDS Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Tall, skinny glass structures were a goal of modernist architecture ever since Mies Van Der Rohe proposed a glass skyscraper for Berlin. Such buildings as Gordon Bunshaft's Lever House, Mies' Seagram Building, and Frank Lloyd Wright's Johnson Wax Headquarters attempted this goal, but many of these designs retained structural artifacts that prevented a consistent, monolithic look.

In 1972, Pei and Cobb's design of the Hancock Tower took the glass monolith skyscraper concept to new heights. The tower is an achievement in minimalist, modernist skyscraper design.

Minimalism was the design principle behind the tower. The largest panes of glass possible were used. There are no spandrels panels, and the mullions are minimal. Pei and Cobb added a geometric modernist twist by using a parallelogram shape for the tower floor plan. From the most common views, this design makes the corners of the tower appear very sharp. The highly reflective window glass is tinted slightly blue, which results in the tower having only a slight contrast with the sky on a clear day. As a final modernist touch, the short sides of the parallelogram are marked with a deep vertical notch, breaking the tower's mass and emphasizing its verticality.

Problems with the building

achievement. Its opening was delayed from 1971 to 1976, and the total cost is rumored to have rocketed from $75M to $175M. It was an embarrassment for the firm, modernist architects, and the architecture industry. Fact|date=February 2007


Hancock Tower was plagued with problems even before construction started. During the excavation of the tower's foundation, temporary steel retaining walls were erected to create a void on which to build. The walls warped, giving way to the clay and mud fill they were supposed to hold back. The inward bend of the retaining walls damaged utility lines, the sidewalk pavement, and nearby buildings—even damaging the historic Trinity Church across the street. Hancock ultimately paid for all the repairs.

Falling glass panes

Inventing a way to use the blue mirror glass in a steel tower came at a high price.

The building's most dangerous and conspicuous flaw was its faulty glass windows. Entire 4' x 11', 500 lb (1.2 x 3.4 m, 227 kg) windowpanes detached from the building and crashed to the sidewalk hundreds of feet below. Police were left closing off surrounding streets whenever winds reached 45 mph (72 km/h). According to the "Boston Globe", MIT built a scale model of the entire Back Bay in its Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel to identify the problem. The exact cause of the malfunction was never revealed due to a legal settlement and gag order. Most now diagnose the problem as a combination of the double-paned glass construction method, and the pressure differentials between the inside and outside air.

In October 1973, I.M. Pei & Partners announced that all panes would be replaced by a different heat-treated variety—costing between $5 million and $7 million. During the repairs, plywood replaced the building's empty windows, earning it the nickname Plywood Palace and the joke that it was "the world's tallest plywood building".

Nauseating sway

The building's upper-floor occupants suffered from motion sickness when the building swayed in the wind. To stabilize the movement, a device called a tuned mass damper was installed on the 58th floor. [ As described by Robert Campbell] , architecture critic for the "Boston Globe"::Two 300-ton weights sit at opposite ends of the 58th floor of the Hancock. Each weight is a box of steel, filled with lead, 17 feet (5.2 m) square by 3 feet (0.9 m) high. Each weight rests on a steel plate. The plate is covered with lubricant so the weight is free to slide. But the weight is attached to the steel frame of the building by means of springs and shock absorbers. When the Hancock sways, the weight tends to remain still... allowing the floor to slide underneath it. Then, as the springs and shocks take hold, they begin to tug the building back. The effect is like that of a gyroscope, stabilizing the tower. The reason there are two weights, instead of one, is so they can tug in opposite directions when the building twists. The cost of the damper was $3 million.

The dampers are free to move a few feet relative to the floor. LeMessurier Consultants says the dampers are located in relatively small utility rooms at each end of the building, leaving most of the 58th floor usable.

According to Robert Campbell, it was also discovered that—despite the mass damper—the building could have fallen over under a certain kind of wind loading. Ironically, it could tip over on one of its narrow edges, not its big flat sides. Some 1,500 tons of diagonal steel bracing were added to prevent this, costing $5 million. [| Campbell, Robert, "Builder Faced Bigger Crisis Than Falling Windows," "The Boston Globe," March 3, 1995]

eptember 11

An observation deck with spectacular views of Boston was a popular attraction. It was closed after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks [ [ / US under attack ] ] and remains closed as of spring 2007 (like the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco). Because of the closure of the John Hancock Tower's observation deck, the highest observation deck in Boston that is open to the public is in the Prudential Tower.

The building's owners cite security as the reason for the continued closure, but have used the deck for private functions and have expressed intent to replace it with more office space. Boston officials contend that security concerns are moot, since most similar attractions have long since reopened, and that a public observation deck was a requirement for the original building permits, though the city can't seem to produce documentary evidence.fn|1

The Berkeley Building

The Stephen L. Brown Building (197 Clarendon St.)

The oldest of the John Hancock buildings was designed by Parker, Thomas & Rice, best known as architects of the United Shoe Machinery building. It was completed in 1922. It is located at 197 Clarendon St. across from the Hancock tower. It was known as the "John Hancock Life Insurance Company Building." The building was never considered particularly notable; for example, it is not mentioned in the 1937 WPA state guide to Massachusetts. In recent years it was known as "The Clarendon Building." Circa 2001 it was renamed "The Stephen L. Brown Building" in honor of Stephen L. Brown, chairman of John Hancock Financial Services, Inc. According to Lyndon Donlyn, "if you stand on the corner of Clarendon Street and St. James Avenue and look directly into the mirrored surface of the third Hancock, you will see reflected there the first two, aligned hierarchically in an ethereal family portrait."

Originally, the Planned Development Area (PDA) agreement for the building of the 60-story John Hancock Tower called for 197 Clarendon to be demolished to make way for open space or a public square. In 1982, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, responding to a request from the John Hancock company, decided that it would be better to keep the building on the tax rolls. It was also thought that open space near the base of the tower might not be desirable, due to the tower's "wind tunnel" effect.

601 Congress Street

In 2002, Manulife Financial began construction of a 14-story building in the Seaport District at 601 Congress Street ( [] ). The building was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP of Chicago, designers of the John Hancock Center in Chicago and the Sears Tower, also in Chicago. The building features a "green" (energy-efficient) dual glass curtain wall construction, making it among the first buildings in Boston to win national LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

On April 28, 2004, the then-head of Manulife's Boston operations announced that the building would be renamed the "John Hancock Building." [Fitzgerald, Jay (2004), "Hancock signs off independence," "The Boston Herald," April 29, 2004, Business section: "Proving that Manulife intends to keep and promote the famous John Hancock brand name, D'Alessandro said Manulife's Southie tower will be renamed the "John Hancock Building."] According to Manulife, this is not quite correct; the building, completed in fall of 2004, will house the John Hancock Wealth Management Group and will bear conspicuous "John Hancock" exterior and interior signage featuring the John Hancock logo. However, the company will refer to the building simply as "601 Congress."

Only time will tell whether this notable Seaport district building will become known in common parlance as the fourth "John Hancock building." As of 2005, however [ Emporis] lists the "official name" of the building as the "Manulife Tower."

Note on company name

The company that built the three buildings is known loosely as "John Hancock Insurance," or simply "John Hancock." It was known as "The John Hancock Life Insurance Company" in the 1930s and "The John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company" in the 1940s. As of 2000, the company owning the buildings was "John Hancock Financial Services, Inc." with various subsidiaries such as "The John Hancock Variable Life Insurance Company" and "Signator Investors, Inc." In 2003, the company was acquired by the Canadian Manulife Financial Corporation, but still uses the name "John Hancock Financial Services, Inc." and those of various subsidiaries.


*fnb|1Park, Madison. "Searching for an answer on 60th floor: Councilor wants Hancock site open." Boston Globe 15 Jun 2005: . []
*Location and size of mass dampers: telephone conversation with Richard Henige, LeMessurier Consultants, Inc.
*Oct. 15, 1973. [,10987,910824,00.html "Those Window Pains"] . "TIME".
*Harl P. Aldrich, James R. Lambrechts (Fall 1986). " [ Back Bay Boston, Part II: Groundwater Levels] ". "Civil Engineering Practice", Volume 1, Number 2.

ee also

*Prudential Tower for an image of the Boston skyline from Cambridge in 1963, with the old 26-story Hancock building a conspicuous landmark.

*List of tallest buildings by U.S. state
*List of tallest buildings in Boston

External links

* [ Images of the John Hancock Tower] by Mary Ann Sullivan
* [ Architecture Week: "When Bad Things Happen to Good Buildings"] - has pictures of plywood on the Tower
* [ The Perfect Skyscraper] - an ode to the final example of the modernist skyscraper.
* [ "Builder Faced Bigger Crisis Than Falling Windows"] Boston Globe article by Robert Campbell on Hancock Place's most serious structural problem.
* [ Boston photos] shows an image of the old Hancock building reflected in the new one.
* [ Image of the Manulife building at 601 Congress Street]
* [ Special Report on the Boston Globe; "The Hancock at 30" includes 4 audio slideshows]
* [ Globe Critic, Robert Campbell, on the problems of the John Hancock Tower]

###@@@KEY@@@###succession box| before=Prudential Tower
title=Tallest Building in Boston| years=1976—Present 241m| after=None

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