Ten minutes before his plane landed at Logan International Airport here, Henry Cobb peered out his window at the John Hancock Tower—Boston’s most famous and iconic skyscraper. Mr. Cobb, the building’s architect, tapped his index finger hard on the glass twice, as though playfully poking an old adversary. “I still like it, but it’s a long story.”

A principal at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, one of the world’s leading architectural firms based in New York, Mr. Cobb, 85, invited a writer to join him on a rare visit to the once-controversial office tower. When the 62-story building emerged in the early 1970s, its slender form and mirrored-glass facade shocked the city, rising ominously in Boston’s historic Copley Square like the monolith in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Then nightmarish problems with its windows surfaced, stirring civic concern and putting the architecture firm’s reputation at risk.

But since opening to the public 35 years ago on Sept. 29, 1976, the Hancock Tower has steadily won the hearts of residents, tourists and architectural critics alike. Earlier this year, Mr. Cobb’s bold geometric edifice received the prestigious 2011 American Institute of Architects’ Twenty-Five Year Award, which is bestowed on buildings that are 25 to 35 years old and embody architectural design of enduring significance.

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Marc Myers
Wall Street Journal

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