Chicago’s extensive history of steel skyscrapers conceals the city’s important innovations in concrete. Since the early 1900s, architects, engineers, and builders in Chicago explored concrete’s formal and structural versatility, leading to important developments in formwork, structural concepts, and material science. Bill Baker, emeritus partner at SOM, will discuss this history and the importance of one building in particular: Chestnut-DeWitt, an apartment tower from the early 1960s designed by Bruce Graham and Fazlur Khan, of SOM, that pioneered the tube structure in concrete, an idea that would later form the basis for steel towers such as Sears and John Hancock. He will be joined in conversation by Thomas Leslie, Visiting Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and author of Chicago Skyscrapers, 1934-1986.
Bill Baker, PE, SE, FASCE, FIStructE, NAE, FREng
Consulting Partner, SOM
Having joined SOM in 1981, Bill Baker led the firm’s structural engineering practice for over twenty years and is now a consulting partner. He is best known for the design of the “buttressed core” structural system for the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest manmade structure. Active with numerous professional organizations and institutions of higher learning, Baker has received many honors, including three honorary doctorates. He is a Fellow of both the ASCE and the IStructE, a member of the National Academy of Engineering (United States), and an International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (United Kingdom). Recently he has been splitting his time between Chicago and the UK as a Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge.
Thomas Leslie, FAIA
Thomas Leslie is Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he researches the integration of building sciences and arts, both historically and in contemporary practice. He is the author of Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871-1934 and its sequel Chicago Skyscrapers, 1934-1986 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2013 and 2023). He is also the author of Beauty’s Rigor: Patterns of Production in the Work of Pier Luigi Nervi (University of Illinois Press, 2017).