The recipient of the 2011 AIA 25 Year Award, Boston’s Hancock Tower, completed in 1976, “was not well received” by the local community when its proposal was unveiled in 1968. So admitted Henry Cobb, FAIA, the building’s architect, at a speech about the skyscraper, a building that has suffered a tumultuous existence (falling glass panes, structural issues) and remains a polarizing icon even today.
Speaking at length during the AIA convention about a building, and a design, of which he is clearly proud, Cobb offered brief histories: his own as a designer, and that of the Boston site, next to H.H. Richardson’s Trinity Church, where the all-glass structure would ultimately rise. Through a series of compelling historical images and enlightening tidbits of information, Cobb made it clear that the Hancock Tower was a deeply researched design, one that is emblematic of the architect’s philosophy that skyscrapers are “99 percent logic, 1 percent art.”
Near the end of his talk, as he reflected on the tower’s “persistent ambiguity,” Cobb confessed that “among all my built works, the Hancock Tower is as close as I’ve come to poetry, and to silence.”