Chicago – The Sears Tower
Chicago is where the Sears Tower is located and this world famous landmark is an attraction that is always popular with local residents and tourists. The Skydeck is the 103rd floor observation landing that is the main draw for people visiting Sears Tower. From this vantage point it is possible to see Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin in the distance. It is also one of the best places to experience the sway of a “tall scraper” as it reacts to the Chicago wind. This 108 story building was completed in 1973, and its height of 442m gave it the distinction of being the world’s tallest building at that time. Today it is the tallest freestanding structure in the US, but it is only the 4th tallest in the world.
This mighty skyscraper will soon be undergoing a name change in 2009. The Sears’ Company lost the naming rights in 2003. When the right to the name expired, it was still being referred to as the Sears Tower but for the past 6 years this name has been unofficial.
In March of 2009 much of this building was leased by Willis Group Holdings, Ltd., a British insurance brokerage firm. The contract was drawn up and approved with the stipulation that the company would have the right to name the building. The new name, as of the summer of 2009, will be the Willis Tower. This is not the only change that is planned; the London based firm is also revamping the outer appearance by painting it silver.
In The Sears Roebuck Company was known as the largest US retailer in the 1960s. Company executives wanted to create an office building to house all of the Chicago based workers. In 1969 they gave the contract for Sears Tower to the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. From the very first everyone knew that they would be creating one of the largest structures in the world. The chief architect was Bruce Graham and Fazlur Khan was tapped to be the head structural engineer.
The executives knew that many of the floors would be devoted to their own workers, especially the large number of employees that dealt with Merchandise and Sales. However, they also proposed that the additional office space be rented out to others until it was needed by Sears. They wanted smaller sized floors with lots of big windows to make the rental option attractive to smaller firms and professional businessmen. This decision played a part in the overall design of the Tower. With the company pushing for smaller sizes for the floors it meant that the building would have to be even taller than they had first thought. The architects drew up plans that used the larger floor designs in the lower section of the Tower and then they tapered the sizes of all of the other floors. Today this sturdy, unique look is a distinct and identifiable feature of Sears Tower.
Although the company was able to finance the construction costs, the 70s had a devastating impact on the Sears organization. The growth and profits did not materialize and other retailers moved in and took large chunks of their customer base. It became difficult to even find businesses to rent office space in Sears Tower during the 80s. The company was forced to move from the building in 1992 and since this time the landmark has had several different owners. Hopefully 2009 will be the year when this impressive skyscraper will regain the elegance that it displayed when it first opened in 1973.