Willis Tower (Formerly Sears Tower): Sears Tower

Willis Tower
The 110 story Sears Tower was completed in 1974, &, at that time until 1996 was The World's Tallest Building. At the time it was built, it was the symbol of the vast merchandising empire of Sears, Roebuck & Company, based in Chicago since 1893! The company wanted a large building 6,500 employees. The idea was to consolidate offices that were scattered across the city.

This site on South Wacker Drive was chosen because it was close to commuter railroad stations, the Elevated, the CTA bus routes, & all 3 expressways.

The building was limited to 1,454 feet by the Federal Aviation Authority. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Architectual Firm designed the building. They used a "bundled tube building procedure" because the perimeter columns brace the building against the wind. Their frames are interlocked, & each tube helps support its neighboring tube.

Setbacks are used above the 50th floor which help to deflect the horizontal wind stress. These setbacks make for sound design & a powerful profile on Chicago's skyline. It can be seen for great distances.

Originally, the large floors in the base building were occupied by Sears; the upper floors were (and still are) rented. This building uses high-speed, double-deck express elevators & sky lobbies for transfers to local elevators.

Even though the building itself reflects sound engineering & sucessful architecture design, much criticism has been given concerning the granite-paved plaza surrounding the base of the tower. It's been called, "cheerless space, virtually devoid of seating or landscaping & generally devoid of people." Thus, 10 years after it was built, a 4-story, vaulted atrium was added to welcome arrivals on Wacker Drive. Also, a major entrance was added on Jackson Boulevard in a $25 million dollar renovation.

The Skydeck occupies the 103rd floor. Its own entrance is on Jackson Boulevard.
More than 1.5 million visitors come each year!

Directions: Corner of Jackson and Franklin. Entrance on Jackson Blvd. On the Loop, exit on Quincy station and walk west along Quincy Street.




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