Few buildings are more loved in Chicago than the John Hancock Center. The black, monolithic, 100-story tower was designed by Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Khan for SOM in the late 1960s, and to this day commands a prominent place on Chicago’s skyline.
While most of the building is private office space and residences, three of the uppermost floors are dedicated to an observation deck (dubbed 360 Chicago), a restaurant, and a lounge. 360 Chicago sports some of the best views of the city along with historical information, a gift shop, and a “ride” in which guests are tipped over the edge of the building in a glass apparatus to look down over 90 floors, known as the Tilt! In a recent ceremony, a bit of enigmatic ephemera was added to that observation floor that any architectural fan can appreciate.
Building Chicago at 360 Chicago at the top of the John Hancock Center. (Courtesy 360 Chicago)
“The Journal of Michigan Pete” is a first person account of the building of the iconic structure written by Evald Peterson, a.k.a. “Michigan Pete,” a caisson inspector for the project. The journal, displayed in facsimile and digitally, recounts the technical side of the construction project as well as the more personal view of the rising tower. Along with the journal, Michigan Pete collected construction site photos, postcards, and other building literature from the time, which is all integrated the interactive display on digital tablets.
The ceremony to open the new display included short talks by Gerald Peterson, Michigan Pete’s son, and William F. Baker, structural and civil engineering partner at SOM, and Lynn Osmond, president and CEO of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Gerald Peterson, who also worked under his father as a laborer on the construction of the Hancock, spoke of his father’s pride in having worked on the building.
“To the majority of people, Big John is just a big building, but to Michigan Pete it was his little baby. The building intrigued him. At night, when getting home in the evening, he would always write notes of the events of the day, this was the start of the journal,” explained Peterson. Peterson also recounted a story of how his father talked his way through security to ascend the 100 stories on foot once the structure was complete, a story that is included in the journal as well.