John Skilling

Life Member 1999, Engineer of the Year 1986

excerpted from
John Skilling biography on
The innovative designs and professional achievements of structural engineer John Skilling have drawn widespread recognition for projects that shape the skyline of Seattle and of cities around the world. Among many Skilling projects, the twin towers at New York’s World Trade Center and their engineering attracted world-wide attention as the world's tallest structures at the time of their 1973 construction, and again at their destruction in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Under his leadership over 45 years, the Seattle-based firm Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire designed notable structures in Seattle ranging from the Pacific Science Center to the Columbia Tower and the Washington State Convention & Trade Center as well as projects in 41 states and 24 countries.  In recognition of Skilling’s work, in 1964 Engineering News Record identified him as “the prototype of the modern structural engineer,” and in 1986 local media called him “Seattle’s Man of Steel.”  Architect William J. Bain Jr. described him as “a legendary structural engineer, a lyrical designer, and one of the top conceptual skyscraper engineers in the world.”

With architects Naramore, Bain, Brady & Johanson and Minoru Yamasaki, John Skilling worked on the design of the United States Science Pavilion (later Pacific Science Center) for the Seattle World’s Fair of 1962.  Reviewing the project drawings, Skilling noted that the columns supporting the geometric domes seemed “a bit chunky.” He said, “I can make those columns thinner." The resulting graceful structures became emblematic of the fair’s futuristic theme, and remain a Seattle landmark.

Posted February 2012/Updated April 2012