John Hancock Tower receives the 2011 AIA Twenty-Five Year Award

A news release from PEI COBB FREED & PARTNERS Architects LLP follows:

Steve Rosentha

John Hancock Tower

Boston, Massachusetts
Completed 1976

Lead Designers: Henry N. Cobb

Harold Fredenburgh

Corporate headquarters and investment office building

1.7 acres, at the southeastern edge of Copley Square

Boston, Massachusetts 

Gross Floor Area
2.06 million s/f plus 750,000 s/f independent parking garage

John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company,
Boston, Massachusetts

Time Frame
Planning: 9/67–
Construction: 8/68–
Completion: 9/76

LEED Gold certified
(Existing Building)

The John Hancock Tower is an office building commissioned by the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company principally for its own use, with a few floors occupied by other tenants. The building contains a gross floor area of 2,060,000 square feet on sixty-two floors above grade and two below. It is located at 200 Clarendon Street, adjacent to Trinity Church and Copley Square, in Boston, Massachusetts. The architect was I. M. Pei & Partners (now Pei Cobb Freed & Partners), with Henry N. Cobb, FAIA, as design partner, Eason H. Leonard, FAIA, as administrative partner, Werner Wandelmeier, FAIA, as project manager, Michael D. Flynn, FAIA, as project architect for curtain wall, Harold Fredenburgh, AIA, as project design architect, Michael Vissichelli, AIA, as Job Captain, and Andrej Gorczynski, AIA, and Patrick Lestingi, AIA, as staff architects. Construction was completed in 1976.

The John Hancock Tower recently achieved LEED Gold Existing Building certification for energy use, lighting, water, and material use as well as a variety of other sustainable strategies. Some of these involve equipment upgrades, while others were integral to the original design. For example, the building’s glass façade and narrow floor plate allow natural light to reach 86 percent of all work areas.

In a lecture delivered at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1980, Cobb explained the design of the Hancock Tower as follows.

The extreme disparity in size between the tower and the church was the central predicament we faced. We chose to deal with it not by creating a gratuitous distance between the two—this would only have exacerbated the problem—but by bringing them into close proximity while positioning and shaping the tower in such a way that the church becomes the autonomous center and the tower the contingent satellite in the composition. To accomplish this, several aspects of the tower’s design may be cited as essential: First, the attenuated rhomboid plan-form emphasizes the planar and minimizes the volumetric presences of the building. Second, placement of the rhomboid diagonally on the site, with its narrow edge adjacent to the church, effectively disembodies the tower as seen from the square. Third, notches bisecting the end walls accentuate the weightless verticality of these planes and make legible the tower’s nonrectangular geometry. Fourth, the triangular space created between the church and the broad face of the tower pays homage to the apsidal view of Richardson’s building, reinforcing its intended role as the architectural cynosure of Copley Square. Fifth, the tower’s uniformly gridded and reflective surface, stripped of all elements that might suggest a third dimension, mutes the obtrusiveness of its enormous bulk and defers in all respects to the rich sculptural qualities of its much smaller neighbor. With regard to this latter aspect, it should especially be noted that the three-story-high lobby at the base of the tower is sheathed in the same manner as all other floors; had the monumental scale of this space been directly expressed or exposed to view from the outside, it surely would have upset the delicate balance in the dialogue between church and tower.

As the foregoing suggests, we adopted a strategy of minimalism in the design of the Hancock Tower not for ideological reasons, but because the situation of the building demanded it. In the determined pursuit of our goal—to achieve a symbiosis between the church, the tower, and the square—we excluded everything that did not contribute directly to this end. For we believed that only thus could we temper the inherent arrogance of so large a building and endow it with a presence that might animate rather than oppress the urban scene.

Major Components

1.6 million s/f offices (3 floors @ 47,000 s/f, 51 floors @ 30,200 s/f), lobby, banking facilities, 1,000-seat employee cafeteria / lounge (36,000 s/f), 29,000 s/f observation gallery on 60th floor, commissioned art (Don Moulton, Apples), outdoor plaza; parking for 1850 cars in independent 750,000 s/f garage with ground floor retail


American Institute of Architects:
Twenty-Five Year Award
Boston Society of Architects:
Harleston Parker Medal
American Institute of Architects:
National Honor Award 

I. M. Pei & Partners services

Complete Architectural Services; Interior Design of public spaces and executive offices 


Office of James Ruderman, New York, NY

Mechanical / Electrical

Cosentini Associates LLP, New York, NY


Mueser, Rutledge, Wentworth & Johnson, New York, NY

Steve Rosentha

Steve Rosentha

Gorchev & Gorchev

George Cserna

Peter Vanderwarker


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