History behind the change of Sears Tower to Willis Tower

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Mon Feb 25, 2019

Having attended the Indian Student Association (ISA) event on February 18, I was fascinated by Willis Tower. Keen on finding more about it, I started digging.

In 1969 Sears, Roebuck, and Company was the world’s largest retailer, employing approximately 350,000 people. In order to consolidate current staff and accommodate anticipated growth, the company hired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to design a three-million-square-foot office tower. The location of the tower was strategically selected for its proximity to expressways and commuter rail lines to benefit Sears employees. But in the end, the tower’s location proved to be advantageous for the city as well. The inhabitants of the bustling office building generated new energy in a formerly stagnant West Loop neighborhood.

This history explains why many Chicagoans still nostalgically refer to the building as the Sears Tower, although it has not technically been the Sears Tower for years. In 2009 the London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings (later called Willis Towers Watson) leased more than 140,000 square feet of office space on three floors of the Sears Tower. The contract included naming rights for 15 years. On July 16, 2009, the name of the building was officially changed to Willis Tower.

The Sears Tower opened to tenants in 1973, though construction was not actually completed until 1974. Built for Sears, Roebuck and Company, the structure reaches 110 floors and a height of 1,450 feet (442 meters), excluding broadcast antennas and their supports, and provides more than roughly 4.3 million square feet (400,000 square meters) of floor space for offices and other activities.

The exterior is sheathed in black aluminum and bronze-tinted glass. Black bands appear around the building at the 30th–31st, 48th–49th, 64th–65th, and 106th–108th floors, at which points louvers clad the areas devoted to mechanical operations of the building. In the lobby is a major work by the American sculptor Alexander Calder, an enormous motorized mural named Universe, which he called a “wallmobile.” The tower’s observation deck, the Skydeck, is located on the 103rd floor. In the early 21st century the Skydeck underwent a major renovation that included the addition of the Ledge, four glass boxes that extend 4.3 feet (1.3 meters) from the building; The Ledge opened in 2009, offering unobstructed views of Chicago and the outlying area.

The Sears Tower was the world’s tallest building until 1996, when it was surpassed by the Petronas Twin Towers (1,483 feet [451.9 metres]) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

One of the most iconic towers in the Chicago’s skyline, it’s a must visit for its panoramic views and its beautiful architecture.

 

 

 

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2019 - Spring - Issue 5
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