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John Hancock Property, Development Plan

Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

The commission to design the Kennedy Library brought an influx of other important commissions, notably in Boston where Kennedy had strong ties. Headquarters for both the Christian Science Center and the John Hancock Insurance Company came to Pei within months of each other.

Suffering from years of stagflation, Boston adopted a new master plan in the 1960s to jump-start the modern city with a spine of tall buildings. The 52-story Prudential Center (headquartered in Newark, New Jersey) was the first, completed in 1964. It eclipsed the 26-story tower, just blocks away, of locally-based Hancock, the largest employer in New England. Hancock gamely sought to expand onto two adjacent blocks with a landmark tower.

Pei proposed a multi-building complex with an iconic architectural concrete cylinder sliced on one side to create an outdoor plaza and thereby angle the mass away from historic Trinity Church across the street. Hancock ultimately decided to consolidate all of its growing needs on a single city block. As the change required a complete redesign, Pei chose not to proceed whereupon his partner Henry Cobb began the job anew. ( The resultant 2-million-square-foot glass tower is still the tallest, and most memorable, in Boston.

Design Team (unexecuted first scheme only): I.M. Pei, Design Partner; Harold Fredenburgh, Design Architect
I.M. Pei & Partners