Structural Engineer of Former Sears Tower and Other Icons, Iyengar Dies at 85

Srinivasa “Hal” Iyengar, a structural engineer who helped design landmarks from Chicago to London, and worked with architect Frank Gehry on the renowned Bilbao Guggenheim in Spain, has died. He was 85.

Photo of Srinivasa "Hal" Iyengar

Iyengar, P.E., Dist.M.ASCE, NAE, was part of the dynamic Chicago architectural and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, where he made significant contributions to stadiums and landmark structures including Sears (now Willis) Tower, for many years the world’s tallest building. He helped develop the innovative framing structures for the former John Hancock Center, now known as 875 N. Michigan Ave. “Hal did a lot of the heavy lifting … of the heavy engineering side,” William Baker, a structural engineering partner at Skidmore, told the Chicago Tribune.

His philosophy – clarity in expression, rationality in design – led just three years ago to a Twenty-five-Year Award from the American Institute of Architects for his 11-story Broadgate Exchange House, a London office building that is actually part bridge. The structure’s distinctive arches allow it to span working railroad tracks.

After earning two degrees in his native India, Iyengar received a second master’s (in civil and structural engineering) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A year later he was at Skidmore working under his mentor, the brilliant structural engineer Fazlur Khan.

In 1986, Iyengar achieved another triumph, teaming with architect Bruce Graham on a striking, cable-stayed addition to Chicago’s convention center, now called McCormick Place North.

After retiring from Skidmore, Iyengar opened his own firm, Structural Design International, where in later years as a consultant, he played a key role on the engineering team that worked with Gehry on the Bilbao Guggenheim, an evocative sculpture in its own right that was a sensation on its 1997 opening.

The National Academy of Engineering inducted Iyengar in 2000. He also received a lifetime achievement award from the American Institute of Steel Construction. ASCE named him a Distinguished Member in 1998.


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