Engineer, Entrepreneur



(3 April 1929 – 27 March 1982)


The skyscrapers seen now all over the world were built on the theory of tubular designs which was formed by Fazlur Rahman Khan. A Bangladeshi-American civil engineer known for his innovations in high-rise building construction. Khan’s many skyscraper projects include Chicago’s John Hancock Center (1970) and Willis Tower (1973), which are among the world’s tallest buildings.

His first skyscraper was the Sears Tower which was done by the innovative “bundled tube” structural system, which consists of a group of narrow steel cylinders that are clustered together to form a thicker column. This system minimized the amount of steel needed for high towers. This method is now followed for building skyscrapers.

Known For: father of “Tubular Designs” for high rise buildings

Born: 3 April 1929

Age: 52

Birthplace: Dhaka,Bangladesh

Nationality: British Indian (1929-1947)

Pakistani (1947-1971)

Bangladeshi (after 1971)


Father: Abdur Rahman Khan

Mother: Khadijah Khatun


Imar Rahman Khan

Masuda Khan

Zillur Rahman Khan (a renowned Bangladeshi-American educationist  and professor)


Armanitola Government High School

Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur

Ahsanullah Engineering College (BSc)

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (MS, PhD)

Occupation: Engineer

Spouse: Liselotte Khan

Children: Yasmin Sabina Khan

Significant designs:

McMath–Pierce solar telescope

DeWitt-Chestnut Apartments

Brunswick Building

John Hancock Center

Hancock Whitney Center

140 William Street

Willis Tower, Chicago

U.S. Bank Center

Hajj Terminal

King Abdulaziz University

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

One Magnificent Mile

Onterie Center, Chicago

United States Air Force Academy,


Wason Medal
Alfred Lindau Award
Thomas Middlebrooks Award

Ernest Howard Award

Kimbrough Medal

Oscar Faber medal

International Award of Merit in Structural Engineering

AIA Institute Honor for Distinguished Achievement

John Parmer Award

Illinois Engineering Hall of Fame

ENR’s Man of the Year award

Independence Day Award


Fazlur Khan Lifetime Achievement Medal named after

Fazlur Rahman Khan Endowed Chair of Structural Engineering and Architecture

Death: 27 March 1982

Death Reason: Heart attack

Grave: Graceland Cemetery, Chicago

Early Life

Fazlur Rahman Khan was born on 3 April 1929 to a Bengali Muslim family in Bangladesh). He was raised in the village of Bhandarikandi in the Faridpur District near Dhaka.

His father, Abdur Rahman Khan was a high school mathematics teacher and textbook author.Later became the Director of Public Instruction in Bengal and after retirement served as the principal of Jagannath College.

His mother, Khadijah Khatun, was the daughter of Abdul Basit Chowdhury, the Zamindar (aristocratic landowner) of Dulai in Pabna. Fazlur Rahman Khan had 3 siblings, two brothers and one sister.


Fazlur Rahman Khan attended Armanitola Government High School, in Dhaka. After that, he studied Civil Engineering in Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology which is in Kolkata, India. Then he received his Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

He received a Fulbright Scholarship and a government scholarship, which gave him the opportunity to study at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in the United States in 1952.

In three years Khan earned two master’s degrees – one in structural engineering and one in theoretical and applied mechanics. Additionally, he completed his PhD in structural engineering. His thesis was on the design norms for rectangular prestressed concrete beams.


Right after completing his PhD. he was employed by the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Chicago in 1955 where he was made a partner in 1966. He worked the rest of his life along with the fellow architect Bruce Graham.

Fazlur Rahman Khan introduced designing methods and concepts for efficient use of material in building architecture. He is considered the “father of tubular designs” for high-rises and was also a pioneer in computer-aided design (CAD). His architectural methods are still followed to build the highest skyscraper.

His first building that was built with the tube structure concept was the Chestnut De-Witt apartment building. During the 1960s and 1970s, he became the center of attention for his architectural designs for Chicago’s 100-story John Hancock Center and 110-story Willis Tower. Both of the buildings were considered as the tallest building in the world from 1973 until 1998.

He’s been renowned by “Einstein of structural engineering” and the “Greatest Structural Engineer of the 20th Century” for his innovative use of structural systems. In his honor, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat established the Fazlur Khan Lifetime Achievement Medal, as one of their CTBUH Skyscraper Awards.

Fazlur Rahman Khan was also an active designer of other kinds of structures which includes King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. Along with Bruce Graham, Fazlur Khan developed a cable-stayed roof system for the Baxter Travenol Laboratories in Deerfield, Illinois.


His design for the Hajj terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport, completed in 1981 received several awards. The design consists of tent-like roofs that are folded up when not in use. For this he received the Aga Khan Award which described it as an “outstanding contribution to architecture for Muslims”.

His other achievements are Wason Medal (1971) and Alfred Lindau Award (1973) which was from the American Concrete Institute (ACI). The Thomas Middlebrooks Award (1972) and the Ernest Howard Award (1977) from ASCE. The Kimbrough Medal (1973) from the American Institute of Steel Construction. The Oscar Faber Medal (1973) from the Institution of Structural Engineers, London.

He also received The International Award of Merit in Structural Engineering (1983) from the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering IABSE. The American Institute of Architects appreciated his talents and honored him with AIA Institute Honor for Distinguished Achievement (1983)

He received the John Parmer Award (1987) from Structural Engineers Association of Illinois and in 2006 Illinois Engineering Hall of Fame from Illinois Engineering Council. Khan was mentioned five times by Engineering News-Record as among those who served the best interests of the construction industry, and in 1972 he was honored with ENR’s Man of the Year award.

He was chosen to the National Academy of Engineering in 1973. He received honorary doctorates from Northwestern University, Lehigh University, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich (ETH Zurich).

Personal Life

Fazlur Rahman Khan always followed his passion. He believed in enjoying life along the side of working. When he was named Construction’s Man of the Year, he reflected, “the technical man must not be lost in his own technology; he must be able to appreciate life, and life is art, drama, music, and most importantly, people.”

Fazlur Rahman Khan’s most of the personal papers were found in his office at the time of his death. His collection includes manuscripts, sketches, audio cassette tapes, slides and other materials regarding his work. Khan loved singing Rabindranath Tagore’s poetic Bengali songs.

He married Liselotte in 1959, who immigrated from Austria. Liselotte Khan breathed her last in 1990. She was laid right beside Fazlur Rahman Khan. Together they have one daughter named Yasmin Sabina Khan who was born in 1960. Yasmin has degrees in civil engineering and structural engineering/structural mechanics.

In 1967, Fazlur Rahman Khan was elected to become a United States citizen.

List of buildings Khan structured:

McMath–Pierce solar telescope, Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona, 1962

DeWitt-Chestnut Apartments, Chicago, 1963

Brunswick Building, Chicago, 1965

John Hancock Center, Chicago, 1965–1969

Hancock Whitney Center, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1972

140 William Street, Melbourne, 1972

Willis Tower, Chicago, 1970–1973

U.S. Bank Center, Milwaukee, 1973

Hajj Terminal, King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah, 1974–1980

King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, 1977–1978

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1982

One Magnificent Mile, Chicago, completed 1983

Onterie Center, Chicago, completed 1986

United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado


On 27 March 1982, we lost the gem called Fazlur Rahman Khan. He was on a trip to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. At the time of his death he was only 52 years. His death was ruled as a fatal heart attack. His body rests in peace in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, United States.


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