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  1. ArchDaily
  2. Projects
  3. Skyscrapers
  4. United States
  5. SOM
  6. 1973
  7. AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill

AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill

AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill
AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill

© SOM © SOM AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill +20

  • Architects

    Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill
  • Location

    233 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606, United States
  • Architect

    Bruce Graham from Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill
  • Structural Engineer

    Fazlur R. Khan from Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill
  • References

    SOM, searstower.org, TIME.com
  • Project Year

    1973
  • Photographs

From the architect. Towering over the windy city of Chicago, the Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower) was once the tallest building in the world upon its completion in 1973. Sears, Roebuck, & Company commissioned Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill  to design an office building that would house their headquarters and the many offices they had scattered around Chicago in one building. The design also had to incorporate extra office space for the anticipated future growth of the company.

The building is 108 stories tall, rising 1,450 feet above the city. The height of the building is due to spacial needs. The company analyzed their current spacial needs, as well as the space needed for growth up to the year 2003 being as meticulous as determining the number of desks for personnel.

SOM proposed a superstructure of nine interlocking tubes of varying heights, divided in 75' x 75' squares that are separate buildings joined together as one. 

© SOM
© SOM

The different heights allow for the building to step back, meeting setback regulations and creating the iconic staggering effect that the building is known for. The "bundled-tube" configuration was innovated by engineer Fazlur R. Khan from SOM, and these nine tubes formed the skyscraper's basic structure. This system allowed for large open office spaces on the lower levels (where the Sears offices would be located) and smaller floors as the building soared in height with unobstructed views of the city. 

The structure system also saved ten million dollars in steel costs. Aluminum cladding was used for the structure, and the entire rest of the building was clad in bronze-tinted vision glass panels which allowed the skyscraper to receive ample natural lighting and views from every exterior wall. Completing the tower at the peak of its height are antennas that allow for local radio and television broadcasts.

© SOM
© SOM

The 103rd floor of the tower is the location of the famous skydeck Chicago, which is visited by 1.3 million tourists a year. In just 60 seconds tourists can soar to the skydeck to experience the swaying of the skyscraper on a windy day and as of 2009, look at the city beneath their feet from glass boxes that protrude from the deck.

The growth of Sears, Roebuck, & Company did not occur as expected through the years, and in 2009 insurance broker Willis Group Holdings, Ltd. leased three floors of the tower and retained the naming rights. The name of the skyscraper then changed to Willis Tower and is valid for fifteen years.

© SOM
© SOM

Today the Willis Tower still remains the tallest building in the United States and the fifth tallest free-standing structure in the world. Although Sears, Roebuck, & Co. did not have much success for their company inside the walls of the tower, there is no doubt that their vision and SOM's creation is still a marvel on the Chicago skyline. 

© SOM
© SOM

"Sears Tower was the last supertall building constructed during the Internation architecture period, and SOM's interpretation of the style is remarkably bold and awe-inspiring."

© SOM
© SOM
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: Adelyn Perez. "AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill" 01 Jun 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/62410/ad-classics-willis-tower-sears-tower-skidmore-owings-merrill/>
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23 Comments

hoangvanphong · January 12, 2014

hay

Sofitel Chicago · March 13, 2012

This week&#39s architecture highlight for visitors is the @TheWillisTower (Sears Tower): http://t.co/5HQJEtn7 via @archdaily #architecture

jkc · January 27, 2012

yeah let me rock my other hat for a split one & ride out. http://t.co/T7p6qEZq

Alaa moflah · October 20, 2010

perfectly balanced, amazing color for the facade, very elegant design. though it was designed in 1973, that just proves the fact that creativity is not limited to text, software or time.

Michael Baugus · June 03, 2010

Still iconic!- AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill | ArchDaily http://bit.ly/91nt1X

chgchg · June 03, 2010

i agree with thiago: the sears tower is nice, but the hancock steals the show. they are the two great skyscrapers of the latter half of the twentieth century, just as the empire state and chrysler buildings are for the first half. and, like esb and its more diminutive cousin, the awesomeness of sears tends to overshadow the better design of the hancock.

NMiller · June 02, 2010

I remember going to the top when I was 10 or so... maybe younger. It was probably one of those formative experiences that made me want to be an architect later on.... It blew my mind.

BTW....When I first saw the name "Willis tower" and the picture (not here, but on another website) I instantly thought: someone copied the Sears tower????

Mies van der Rohe · June 02, 2010

Sears Tower / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill http://bit.ly/a4jmxR I refuse to call this masterpiece Willis.

thomas foral · June 02, 2010

AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill | ArchDaily http://shar.es/mloNZ

leroywhettam · June 02, 2010

heavywieght champion!

Nicholas Patten · June 02, 2010

AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower). http://bit.ly/cE4lJi

toni poikeljärvi · June 02, 2010

Architecture, AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill | ArchDaily http://bit.ly/9dUGeK

Noodles and Waffles · June 01, 2010

I love the picture of Willis Tower, the Aon Building, and the Hancock Building coming out of the clouds. I'm not sure what the fourth building is...and I live in Chicago.

Der Bob · June 02, 2010 12:05 AM

The fourth building is the Chase Tower, formerly the home of the First National Bank. It was constructed by C.F Murphy Associates and Perkins and Will in 1960. It is 60 stories high.

j · June 01, 2010

it will take generations before anyone calls it willis tower

OPA · June 01, 2010

simply the best skyscraper ever!

Architecture News · June 01, 2010

AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill http://bit.ly/91zDUm via http://topicfire.com/Architect...

miho · June 01, 2010

maison de verre would be a nice AD classics. it´s a wonderfull and contemporary house from 20´s..

http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/f...

Leila Tomaselli · June 01, 2010

AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill via ArchDaily - © Flickr - User: ... http://tinyurl.com/34f82ae

ArchitecturePassion · June 01, 2010

AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill: © Flickr - User: skydeckchicago Towe.. http://tinyurl.com/37jplgt

Harald König · June 01, 2010

this is still so much better than all those twisted and dancing skyscraper nuisances of late.

rental_watanabe 2.0 · June 01, 2010

?archi info? AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings,... http://dlvr.it/1M5X6 #AD_Classics (archdaily) #rental_archiinfo

Architecture+Molding · June 01, 2010

AD Classics: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill: © Flickr - User: skydeckchicago
Towering ov... http://bit.ly/cF0BAC

james · June 01, 2010

the very definition of an icon. It has a real 80's feel to it, of course ahead of its time as it was built '73

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AD 经典:威利斯塔 (西尔斯塔)/ Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill