“Seven Lamps” starter assignment

Comparison: Great Pyramid (Giza) & John Hancock Tower (Chicago)

Note: Dr. Amundson’s comments are added in italics below each submission.


The Pyramids were made of stone while the John Hancock Building was made of metal and glass – each signify the typical building material of the time and also how wealth has changed. Focusing more on the cultural design of the buildings, they are both completely relevant right where they are. In our society, work and business are of most importance, while in ancient times, burying the dead in a highly respectful manner was important. The importance of each building is also clearly shown in the size of the building – they are both massive monuments that exude importance.  (Catie Wildermuth)

Design tends to incorporate and overlap other lamps, but be careful to stay focused what is specific to aesthetic design.  How are those materials used, aesthetically?  Why were they chosen, for visual properties, over others that were available?  What about color and ornament, or other symbolic “speaking” elements of architecture that you might compare?  

Building Type

The building type for the Pyramids were used for burying the dead while the John Hancock is used for supporting the livelihood of many people. A large amount of resources were used according to what was important to the people of that time: Egyptians placed a great amount of importance on the after life where as in modern America, we are focused on living for today so our resources are used to make more places that we can live/work/make a livelihood. In respect to patronage, the tomb was built for wealthy upperclass while the Hancock building was built for the general public. The resources that were used in building the Pyramids came directly from the earth and were readily available in the constructions of the Pyramids. On the other hand, the Hancock building was constructed of manufactured materials. (Kate Davenport)

Stay focused!  Building type/function is a hefty subject; stay on target here rather than get off-track by considering patronage or technology, which I have struck from your answer.  You make good comparisons with the buildings as representing important functions to each culture.  


The Pyramids were built with handmade stones. There was a very limited supply of materials to build with. The Egyptians also lacked modern machinery, so they created systems to help them carry these massive stones to the sight site and then into their place in the pyramid. It took a long time to complete the building of the Pyramids.
The John Hancock Building is made from steel and glass. The architects and builders of this building had a wider range of materials to choose from to build this skyscraper. It was built using modern technology such as cranes and scaffolds, so it was built much more quickly than the Pyramids.
Both structures still stand today and both show the power of architecture through their design. (Makenzie King)

Work harder to make a real comparison, which requires considering each building within single statements.  You have written about them in isolation, which makes comparison/contrast impossible.  Clarify the language: what is “handmade stone”?  Did you mean hand-wrought, or hand-hewn, which would go without saying in this pre-Industrial period?  Rather than consider their lack of our resources, focus on what they accomplished.  Explain not only building/construction materials, but structural methods as well (bearing wall, corbelling, post and lintel).


We noticed very different landscape contexts:
The Pyramids were in a desert with no people around, while the John Hancock Building was in a city with people and cars very close to the building. Also, the Pyramids were in a natural setting, compared to the John Hancock building which was in a man made setting.
The buildings which surrounded these two areas were also a stark contrast. While the John Hancock building had other buildings around it, the Pyramids stood alone.
One thing that the buildings had in common was the tremendous height, although, because of the context, the John Hancock building is more evident because of small buildings, cars, trees, and people around it. It is hard to tell just how tall the Pyramids are. The John Hancock building makes an impression because of the materials and structure used to make it. The Pyramids were made from the natural surroundings, almost blending in with the landscape. (Christian Johnson)

Good approach to writing a comparison, as you consider both buildings together.  Perhaps go farther: why is one in a big open space, and the other in a tight urban setting?  Interesting observation on how the immediate surroundings give a sense of perspective/relative height, or not.


We believed that the patron who helped fund the building of the pyramids wanted to show wealth and power by creating large tombs with the space and room to place riches and family wealth within the tomb.
We believe the patron who helped fund the John Hancock building had a specific purpose in mind. Having the building built in a specific location where the rest of the buildings surrounding it were small and made with different material, causes us to believe that the patron wanted the building to be the focal point of the area (Kayla Mellema)

Again, don’t write about the buildings in isolation.  Bring them together.  Then you see they BOTH showed wealth and power with their buildings; but beyond that, how did their motivations as patrons differ?  Go farther with your considerations; more detail about motivations of people to commit significant resources to these huge buildings.


The designers of the Great Pyramids likely wanted the tomb to be a grand marker for what lay below it. The building is more of a statue in form rather than being practical. On the other hand, the much more modern Hancock Center building is built to look nice but to also serve a purpose. The building is about the use of space while at the same time standing out, something the Pyramid does not particularly do. Modern practice finds the combination of looks and practicality to be more important. (Cullen Andersen)

I don’t think the general evidence in architectural history suggests that more recent architects are more practical overall; it is more revealing to consider why the pyramid was, indeed, a very practical project to its patron.  No one spends that kind of money on a whim. But, more to the point: practice should be about the designer/architect/builders.  How were THEY alike/different in ancient Egypt vs. modern Chicago?  Focus on their roles and responsibilities.  I think you find they have much more in common than not.  One important difference is that Egyptian architects might have actually been thought of as deities, whereas some modern architects just have that opinion of themselves.  🙂