Bruce Graham, architect

On March 6th, SOM’s Bruce Graham passed away.  He was the architect of countless buildings, some not so good, some among the very best architecture created in the last fifty years.  His work in Chicago was most dear to him, especially the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Tower. Both of these are thrilling buildings, but in my opinion they don’t hold a candle to his best work, designed with Walter Netsch, the Inland Steel Building.

glass reflections in the Inland Steel Building, Chicago, IL

It is notable that Graham’s work, like the best of the SOM work, was a close collaboration between architect and engineer, working in the same firm, starting projects at the same time.  The list of accomplished architects from SOM is long:  Gordon Bunshaft, Walter Netsch, Pietro Belluschi, Myron Goldsmith, etc. However, the work of engineer Fazlur Khan, probably the finest engineer of his generation is what really marked the best of SOM’s work.

As an homage to Bruce Graham, let me put here a small quote from him in an interview with Detlef Mertins, (at

“Let me describe the difference between my idea of architecture and a lot of other architects.  Number one, architecture is not painting or sculpture.  Architecture is much more like music, which has an element of time.  Architecture is about space and movement.  It’s four-dimensional.  I learned that very early when I went to Chartres Cahtedral. I walked up the hill and found the square and then the church and walked in, and this fantastic space opened up.  There was a funeral, and they were playing Mozart’s unfinished Requiem.  I had to cry.  Moving through that space with that music was unbelievable.  Space is what architecure is all about.”