The father of tubular designs for skyscrapers | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 16, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:25 AM, April 16, 2021

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The father of tubular designs for skyscrapers

Dr Fazlur Rahman Khan was a Bangladeshi-American structural engineer and architect, who initiated important structural systems for skyscrapers. He built the popular Sears Tower, now known as Willis Tower, which is a 110-storied building situated in Chicago. At the time of its construction in 1974, it was the tallest building in the world and it continued to hold this title for the next 25 years. Dr Khan invented the tube principle, around which all modern skyscrapers are designed.

The tube principle allows engineers to construct skyscrapers that resist the lateral forces of load, including wind and earthquakes. It is economically efficient as it not only makes tall buildings stronger, but also reduces the amount of structural materials required for them.

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Dr Khan is also known for designing famous buildings such as  the John Hancock Tower and the Jeddah Hajj Terminal. Regarded as the 'father of tubular designs' for skyscrapers, he played a pivotal role in designing the structural systems of these high-rise buildings. Dr Khan was mentioned by former US President Barack Obama in 2009 in his speech in Cairo, Egypt, when he cited the achievements of America's Muslim citizens.

He studied civil engineering in Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur, India (currently Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Shibpur). Due to the communal riot of 1950, he was forced to return to Dhaka and was admitted to the Ahsanullah Engineering College, from where he earned his bachelor's in civil engineering in 1950. He then went to the University of Illinois on a Fulbright Scholarship and earned two masters' and a PhD degree in 1955.

Dr Khan passed away in 1982. It is fascinating to trace how modern architecture has evolved in the past few decades and how a Bangladeshi man was instrumental in creating those changes.


The author is a freelance journalist who likes reading, planning and scribbling. Write to her at

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