June 29, 2011
In the early 1950s it was still unusual to see someone from the Indian subcontinent walking on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. So when my father and Chandra K. Jha saw each other, they stopped to say hello. My father had spent three years at the University of Illinois in Urbana, and his visa allowed him to remain in the United States for another two years for professional training (that is, he could get a job as a structural engineer). Chandra Jha was also a structural engineer, but his interest was in construction management. The two young men liked each other immediately, and soon became friends.
They remained close friends and when Chandra left construction and became a developer around 1980, he asked SOM, where my father was by now a general partner and chief structural engineer, to design his building. Onterie Center, the name selected for the 60-story tower, was significant for my father for another reason: it was his first design for a concrete trussed tube. It is a strikingly elegant concrete structure, and, as it turned out, his last design. He never saw the building completed.