Willis Tower
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5 Architecture Facts About the Willis Tower

For almost 25 years the Willis Tower, more commonly known as Sears Tower, held the title for the tallest building in the U.S. Second place isn’t bad, right? And as the 12th tallest in the world at a height of 1,451 feet, it is Chicago’s most beloved skyscraper.

Commissioning The Building

Commissioning The Building

In order to house their rapidly growing company, Sears commissioned architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1969. Architect Bruce Graham and engineer Fazlur Rahman Kahn led.

Advancements in Architecture

Advancements in Architecture

The Willis Tower was the first to ever use a bundled tube structure. Kahn’s design was so revolutionary that it was later used for the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

Inspiration

Inspiration

Graham’s design was inspired by a cigarette ad. He demonstrated the concept to a colleague by pulling cigarettes out of a pack to illustrate the 9 tubes at different heights.

How was it Built

How was it Built

Construction began in April of 1971 and was finished by May 1973. Economically efficient for a building its size, the cost to build was $150 million, about $800 million today.

The Skydeck

The Skydeck

Willis Tower’s observation deck is what makes it celebrated. At 1,353 feet, visitors can feel the building sway on a windy day and see over the plains of Illinois on a clear day.

Our insider tips

Where is it

The address of Willis Tower is 233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60606. Public transportation is easy because it's in such a central location -- off Blue, Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple and Red Lines on the ‘L.

Where to Park

Parking is available at 221 W. Adams, and purchasing a parking card in advance online will get you a discount.

When to Go

Skydeck Chicago is open 365 days a year from 9AM to 10PM April through September and 10AM to 8PM October through March. View at night for the romantic glittering cityscape, by day for the sweeping view of Lake Michigan.

Admission

The basic price for adult admission is $19.50. A variety of ticketing bundles with other Chicago attractions, like a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, are available.

Good to know

  • When should I visit?
    April - Sept: 9:00AM - 10:00PM |
    Oct - March: 10:00AM - 8:00PM
  • Is it expensive?
    $19.50
  • Will I need a guide?
    Nope, but they are available if you want special insights into the building and its surroundings.
  • How to get there
    Take the L, walk, or drive.
  • Additional information
    As with other spectacular views, the best times to visit the SkyDeck are in the early morning and around sunset.

What people are saying about Willis Tower

We took visitors fm No. Carolina, and a couple weeks later, fm Canada.

It's our #1 tourist attraction when we have out of state or out of country viwitors.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by David, 04/11/2018

Docent Javier was outstanding, excellent and quite knowledgeable.

Enjoyed the tour very much, despite the off-and-on ran drops. I've taken a similar tour several years ago with another operator. Both were quite inspiring, especially noting the new buildings that have been compleeted since the last time. I would recommend this to anyone.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Steven, 11/10/2018

This was the best thing we did on our first visit to Chicago.

I'm a civil engineer and my husband works in construction admin so we have somewhat of an interest in architecture, although we chose this tour because of the river. Not only did we enjoy it even more than we expected, our son and his two Navy sailor buddies enjoyed it. The boat was comfortable, the docent (Chris) was great and the drinks were awesome! It was a great deal.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Patricia, 01/10/2018

Will do this tour whenever I am in Chicago

Our guide, Ben, was excellent. Knowledgable about Chicago history and architecture and witty. This is my 4th time doing this type of tour, and it's always interesting, fun and educational.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Anna, 23/09/2018

Great experience, to do once in a lifetime !

You have to go early, at the opening, or during week days because the 2:30-3 hours line (on a sunday at 1pm) is the worst experience I've ever had, but when you're up there you realize it is worth waiting. You can do professional pictures that are insanely expensive, but they are very beautiful. The view is amazing. To enjoy it at the maximum, really pick your day (sunny/not cloudy, early in the morning)

Chicago Skydeck & "The Ledge" Experience Ticket Reviewed by Charlotte, 19/09/2018

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