After an extensive renovation, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) completes the transformation of the Willis Tower observation deck and inaugurates a new interactive exhibition showcasing how architecture shaped Chicago’s identity through the city’s history. Now reopened to the public, the Skydeck is part of SOM’s ongoing design stewardship of Willis Tower, which started with the building’s conception and continued in 2009 with the addition of the Ledge.
Since 2017, the tower has undergone an extensive redevelopment process. Completed in 1973, SOM’s Willis Tower held the title of the tallest building in the world for 25 years and remains to this day a staple of Chicago’s skyline. Moreover, the Skydeck at Willis Tower is the highest observation deck in the United States and a tourist destination in itself, attracting over 1.7 million visitors each year. The pioneering structural design of the 110-story tower is now once again highlighted in SOM’s observation deck transformation, defined by subtle design gestures.
Willis Tower is synonymous with Chicago’s skyline. Envisioned in our studios more than 50 years ago, its design continues to inspire us today. In creating the new Skydeck, we wanted to honor the structural clarity and simplicity of the tower’s original design approach. We wanted to create a quiet backdrop for people to be fully immersed in the city’s skyline and allow the view to speak for itself.” - Scott Duncan, SOM Design Partner.
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The Skydeck renovation features improved lighting allowing for better views of the city, while interactive screens invite visitors to learn more about Chicago’s historic architecture. The exhibition explores the city’s history and showcases bronze models of Chicago’s iconic buildings. Skydeck also features the Ledge, a series of four glass-enclosed balconies that provide visitors with the opportunity of experiencing the city from 103 stories above ground.