Willis Tower: Chicago's Sky-High Architectural Icon

By: MapQuest Travel  | 
Willis Tower skyline image in daytime
The Willis Tower was originally known as the Sears Tower. benedek / Getty Images

Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is an iconic skyscraper located in Chicago, Illinois. With its impressive architecture, rich history, and unparalleled views, Willis Tower has become a must-visit landmark.


History of Willis Tower

Unravel the captivating story behind the iconic Willis Tower as we delve into its history. Discover the fascinating details about its construction and design, and unravel the intriguing previous names it has had throughout its existence. From remarkable architectural feats to its transformative journey, get ready to be transported back in time and explore the rich legacy of the Willis Tower.

Construction and Design

The construction and design of the Willis Tower showcase impressive engineering and architecture. It was built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, taking about three years to complete. Architect Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed the tower.


The construction involved innovative techniques, such as using a bundled tube structure design. This design made the building stable and flexible, allowing it to withstand wind forces.

The tower stands at 1,450 feet, making it one of the world's tallest buildings. Its black aluminum and bronze-tinted glass exterior give it a sleek and modern appearance. Inside, it features state-of-the-art facilities like high-speed elevators and advanced HVAC systems.

The design of the tower was ahead of its time in terms of sustainability. It included energy-efficient features like efficient lighting systems. The construction and design of the Willis Tower were groundbreaking, setting a new standard for skyscrapers globally.

Previous Names

The Willis Tower, previously called the Sears Tower, has had a few previous names. In 1973, it was initially named the Sears Tower. The name "Sears" was in reference to the American general merchandise retailer company, Sears, Roebuck & Co., which was the main tenant of the building at that time. In 2009, the building's name was changed to the Willis Tower after a leasing agreement with the insurance brokerage firm, Willis Group Holdings.

The decision to change the name created some controversy among Chicago residents and fans of the original Sears Tower name. Despite the name change, many people still commonly refer to the tower as the Sears Tower out of habit or nostalgia. Officially, the building is now known as the Willis Tower.

The name changes of the Willis Tower reflect the evolving nature of the building and the corporate landscape in Chicago. While the building's official name may have changed, it remains an iconic and recognizable structure, known as one of the tallest buildings in the world.


Architecture and Features of Willis Tower

Standing tall and proud in the heart of Chicago's skyline, Willis Tower is an architectural marvel that captivates with its impressive features. In this section, we'll explore the awe-inspiring aspects of this iconic structure, including its claim as the tallest building in the world. Discover the uniqueness of its architecture and get ready for breathtaking views from its observation decks. Brace yourself for a captivating journey into the architecture and features that make Willis Tower an unparalleled symbol of grandeur and design.

Uniqueness of Architecture

Willis Tower's architecture is unique in several ways:


  • Iconic design: Willis Tower's sleek and modern design stands out in the Chicago skyline. Its distinct black exterior and series of setbacks give it a visually striking appearance.
  • Vertical structure: One of Willis Tower's unique features is its height. As Chicago's tallest and one of the world's tallest buildings, its soaring vertical structure showcases human engineering and innovation.
  • Structural innovation: Willis Tower's design includes a bundled tube structure, with nine tubes connected together to act as a single unit. This innovative approach provides strength and stability while minimizing interior columns and maximizing usable space.
  • Skydeck and glass ledges: Willis Tower's architecture features the famous Skydeck and glass ledges, offering panoramic views of the city. These additions not only attract visitors, but also highlight the building's daring and unique design.

Visitors to Willis Tower can expect an awe-inspiring experience due to its unique architecture. The combination of its iconic design, vertical structure, and structural innovation creates a visually stunning building that represents human achievement. Don't miss the opportunity to explore the Skydeck and step out onto the thrilling glass ledges for an unforgettable experience.

Observation Decks

The observation decks at Willis Tower provide stunning views of the city and are a popular attraction for visitors. The Skydeck, located on the 103rd floor, offers panoramic views of Chicago and beyond. Visitors can see up to four states on a clear day. The Ledge is a unique feature of the Skydeck that allows visitors to step out onto glass boxes extending 4.3 feet from the building. This thrilling experience gives a feeling of floating above the city. Architecture Tours are also available at the Skydeck, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the building's design and its impact on the city's skyline. These observation decks offer a unique opportunity to see the city from a new perspective. Visitors can capture photos, enjoy the views, and appreciate the architectural marvel of Willis Tower. The experience is truly unforgettable, so be sure to visit the observation decks to get a bird's eye view of Chicago and create lasting memories.


Attractions and Activities at Willis Tower

Discover the endless excitement that awaits at Willis Tower! Brace yourself for breathtaking heights and exhilarating experiences as we explore the attractions and activities this iconic landmark has to offer. Get ready to step out onto the Skydeck, test your courage on the gravity-defying Ledge, and immerse yourself in architectural marvels through informative tours. Prepare to be amazed as we embark on a journey through the heart of Willis Tower's most captivating features.


The Skydeck at Willis Tower offers stunning views of Chicago. Here are some key features:


  • 360-degree Views: The Skydeck provides panoramic views of Chicago and Lake Michigan. It offers unobstructed views in all directions, showcasing the city's iconic skyline.
  • Glass Balconies: The Skydeck features glass balconies known as "The Ledge." These transparent boxes extend from the building, giving visitors the sensation of floating above the city.
  • Height: The Skydeck is located on the 103rd floor of Willis Tower, approximately 1,353 feet (412 meters) above the ground. This height provides a unique vantage point to appreciate the vastness and beauty of Chicago.
  • Interactive Exhibits: The Skydeck also has interactive exhibits that provide information about the history, architecture, and culture of Chicago. Visitors can learn interesting facts and trivia while enjoying the views.
  • Sunset Views: A visit to the Skydeck during sunset offers an awe-inspiring experience. Witness the changing colors of the sky and the city lights coming to life, creating a magical atmosphere.

For an unforgettable experience and breathtaking views of Chicago, a visit to the Skydeck at Willis Tower is a must. Brace yourself for the thrilling adventure of stepping out onto The Ledge!

The Ledge

The Ledge at Willis Tower is a thrilling and unique experience. Located on the 103rd floor, The Ledge consists of glass boxes that extend from the building, allowing visitors to step out and look down at the city below.

Visiting The Ledge lets you embrace your sense of adventure and experience the feeling of being suspended in mid-air. Standing on the glass floor, you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of Chicago from a new perspective.

The Ledge is not for the faint-hearted, as it can be unnerving to walk on a transparent floor 1,353 feet above the ground. It is designed to be safe and sturdy, capable of holding multiple people at a time. The specially made glass used can support the weight of an elephant.

For thrill-seekers and those seeking a unique photo opportunity, The Ledge is a must-visit. It offers an exhilarating experience that allows you to see the city like never before. So, if you're visiting Willis Tower, don't miss the chance to step out onto The Ledge and enjoy the incredible views it has to offer.

Architecture Tours

Architecture Tours at Willis Tower:

  • Guided tours: Visitors can take guided architecture tours at Willis Tower to learn about its unique design and construction.
  • Exploration of architecture: The tours allow visitors to explore the tower's architectural features, including the innovative structural design and advanced materials.
  • Tall building engineering: The tours offer insights into the engineering challenges of constructing such a skyscraper.
  • Views of Chicago skyline: Visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline from different levels of the tower.
  • Historical context: The tours provide historical context, discussing the significance of Willis Tower in the development of Chicago's skyline and architectural history.

Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, was completed in 1973. It was designed by architect Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan of the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. It held the title of the world's tallest building for nearly 25 years until it was surpassed by the Petronas Towers in 1998. The tower's black aluminum and bronze-tinted glass fa├žade has made it an iconic symbol of the Chicago skyline. The architecture tours at Willis Tower provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the tower's design, engineering marvels, and its significant role in shaping the city's architectural landscape.


Interesting Facts about Willis Tower

Interesting Facts about Willis Tower

Here are some interesting facts about Willis Tower:


  • Height: Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is one of the tallest buildings in the world. It stands at 1,450 feet tall, making it an iconic part of the Chicago skyline.
  • Architectural Marvel: Designed by architect Bruce Graham, the tower was completed in 1973 and held the title of tallest building in the world until 1998.
  • Glass Skydeck: The Skydeck on the 103rd floor offers breathtaking views of the city. The glass boxes extend outwards from the building, giving visitors a thrilling and unique experience.
  • Tourist Attraction: Willis Tower attracts millions of visitors each year from around the world who come to admire its architecture and enjoy panoramic views.
  • Green Initiatives: The tower has implemented eco-friendly measures, including rainwater harvesting systems and energy-efficient lighting.

These facts about Willis Tower showcase its architectural significance, tourist appeal, and commitment to sustainability.


The Impact of Willis Tower on Chicago

The Impact of Willis Tower on Chicago

The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, has had a significant impact on Chicago. It has not only shaped the city's skyline and economy but also provided employment for thousands of workers, stimulating economic growth. The tower continues to support the local economy with businesses and attractions, making it a pillar of the community.


In addition to its economic contributions, the Willis Tower has also boosted tourism in Chicago. Visitors from around the world come to admire its impressive architecture and enjoy the breathtaking views from the observation deck. This increase in tourism has had a positive effect on the hospitality industry and local businesses, further boosting the city's economy.

The Willis Tower symbolizes Chicago's architectural prowess and innovation, serving as an inspiration for other projects and establishing the city as a global center for skyscrapers. Its iconic presence showcases the city's commitment to pushing boundaries and embracing bold designs.

The tower actively contributes to the community by hosting charitable events and initiatives. These efforts cultivate a sense of social responsibility among the residents, showing that the tower is not just a symbol of architectural achievement but also a force for good in the city.

All in all, the Willis Tower's impact on Chicago is undeniable. From its economic influence to its role in fostering tourism and community engagement, the tower stands as a testament to the city's growth and ambition.

This article was created using AI technology.


Frequently Asked Questions About the Willis Tower

How many floors does the Willis Tower have?
The Willis Tower has a total of 108 stories.
What is the architectural style of the Willis Tower?
The architectural style of the Willis Tower is characterized by anodized aluminum and black glass facade.
When did construction start on the Willis Tower?
Construction on the Willis Tower started in 1970.
How can I purchase Willis Tower Skydeck tickets?
Tickets for the Willis Tower Skydeck can be purchased by contacting them in advance for price information.
How many days a week is the Skydeck open?
The Skydeck is open seven days a week, year-round.
What is the economic impact of the Willis Tower on local communities?
The Willis Tower is committed to building economic health in communities by regenerating urban spaces, preserving local culture, and bringing humanity into their workplaces.