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

    1. 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

    2. 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

    3. 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

    4. 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

    5. 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.

Planning Your Visit

  • 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

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 4,945 reviews

It was a very pleasant experience! I love how the guide was pointing out the architecture and being very interactive! Only thing is that we got lost since there’s so many companies that host this type of tour! It’s next to the Apple store!

This cruise takes you down and then back up the Chicago River giving you plenty of opportunities to see some of Chicago's most iconic architecture. The cruise is very informative and is an excellent way to get to know the Chicago skyline.

Gets very cold very fast, so prepare. Wish they had some heat going below deck. Was hoping for more history of the city than we got. Boat was very clean and provided a smooth ride.

I loved the Architecture cruise it was very informative, I seen great views of the buildings as well as it was just a beautiful experience .10/10 would recommend

It was very beautiful and relaxing. Very interesting facts about each building that was presented. Props to the instructor for knowing all of that information.