Koelnmesse GmbH / FSB
Koelnmesse GmbH / FSB
Koelnmesse GmbH / FSB

Gensler launch $500m revamp of Chicago's Willis Tower to create 'must-visit' attraction

With this historic investment the Willis Tower will remain a vibrant and modern icon that inspires both young and old for generations to come
– Rahm Emanuel

Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has announced ambitious plans to transform the city’s famous Willis Tower into a civic destination offering “unique retail and entertainment experiences.”

The building – an architectural icon and, at 1,450ft (442m), one of the world's tallest structures – was designed by architect Bruce Graham at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and opened in 1973 as the Sears Tower. It has not been renovated in the four decades since.

Development firm Blackstone – which bought the tower in 2015 – is investing US$500m (€496.6m, £400.4m) in the revamp, which has been designed by architecture and engineering giant Gensler.

Around 460,000sq ft (42,700sq m) of existing space within the tower will be reconfigured, including a full-service fitness centre, expansive tenant lounges and private event space for the people who live and work there. New public areas include more than 300,000sq ft (27,800sq m) of retail, dining and entertainment space, to be added to the base of the building, and a 30,000sq ft (2,780sq m) outdoor deck and garden space.

A new three-story transparent, glass structure will be set atop the existing stone plaza, offering a “see and be seen” experience that invites people to linger and enjoy the streetscape. Below the glass facade will be three subterranean floors organised around a three-storey winter garden. A dramatic glass skylight will provide unobstructed views of all 110 floors of the tower rising above.

Gensler have added this feature to break the barrier between the urban streetscape and the building, which was created in the original design by building the tower atop a base. According to the developer, the new design adapts to “changes that have since occurred in the city and its neighbourhoods, and in the nature of the way we use urban environments for work, life and play.”

In addition to the major building renovations, Willis Tower’s 103rd floor Skydeck Chicago experience will be enhanced by Los Angeles practice Hetzel Design to create “a one-of-a-kind family entertainment experience.” The attraction, which currently welcomes 1.7 million visitors annually, is the highest observation deck in the US and boasts views of up to 50 miles, covering four states, on a clear day.

Four glass viewing boxes, called ‘The Ledge,’ extend beyond the structure itself. While these can hold up to five tonnes, cracks in the glass formed in May 2014, forcing their temporary closure.

Blackstone has pledged to offer 5,000 free Skydeck tickets annually to Chicago’s public schools, so that children from communities across the city can experience the attraction following the revamp.

“With this historic investment the Willis Tower will remain a vibrant and modern icon that inspires both young and old for generations to come,” said Emanuel. “But more than that – today Blackstone is doubling-down on its confidence in the future we are building in the city of Chicago.”

Jon Gray, global head of real estate at Blackstone, added: “Willis Tower has always been iconic within Chicago’s skyline and around the world. The investment we announced today is the largest Blackstone has ever made in reimagining one of its properties.

“Our goal is to restore Willis Tower to its original prominence and make it a must-visit destination in Chicago for tenants, local residents and tourists.”

Work on the project will begin this month, with design-build firm Turner Clayco overseeing construction.

Gensler  Willis Tower  Chicago  The Ledge  Blackstone  Rahm Emanuel  architecture  design 
Related stories
10 Nov 2016

Long-awaited Chicago Riverwalk brings leisure to the heart of the city

06 May 2016

Marks Barfield and Davis Brody Bond design 'iconic' cable car for Chicago

23 Mar 2015

Blackstone buys Chicago's Willis Tower for US$1.3bn – will invest US$150m in leisure elements

30 May 2014

Cracks appear in Chicago’s Willis Tower Skydeck

Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has announced ambitious plans to transform the city’s famous Willis Tower into a civic destination offering “unique retail and entertainment experiences.” The building – an architectural icon and, at 1,450ft (442m), one of the world's tallest structures – was designed by architect Bruce Graham at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and opened in 1973 as the Sears Tower. It has not been renovated in the four decades
CLD,VAT,ARC,DES
The Willis Tower is an architectural icon and one of the world's tallest structures / Wiki Commons
More news
News stories: 1 - 30 of 7617     
 
 
 
News stories: 1 - 30 of 7617     
 
 
 
company profile
Company profile: SPARCSTUDIO
Sparcstudio offers a bespoke and comprehensive design service with real attention to detail. Logical and inspiring space planning forms the bedrock of all Sparcstudio projects.
videos
BluGalaxy a Division of Blu Spas
Blu Spas
This animation showcases the beautiful concept design of BluGalaxy Spa.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
features
The book was published in 2019 by RIBA Publishing
Elina Grigoriou
"Temperature, noise level and colour affect our stress levels. As designers we should be asking ourselves, how do these things match up?"

The London-based interior designer and wellness expert hopes her new book will help readers understand how to design with wellbeing in mind

Interview: Olga Polizzi
Olga Polizzi is director of design for Rocco Forte Hotels and also owns two of her own hotels
"On Via Sistina, everything breathes history. At the same time I wanted to reflect the modern hunger for the fantastical - Tommaso Ziffer"

Following the highly anticipated launch of Rome’s Hotel de la Ville, Rocco Forte’s director of design reflects on a fascinating project

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
A bright red exterior lift takes visitors up to the hotel’s 10th floor restaurant
"We tried to take over in a friendly way"

The Standard’s first London hotel is bold, fun and full of surprising touches

A yoga platform offers views of the spectacular scenery
"Sam was such a champion for the team, and my goal is simply to carry that same torch"

As Blackberry Mountain resort opens in Tennessee, we find out why the project is a deeply personal one for owner Mary Celeste Beall

Alcide Leali Jnr
"Wellness embraces the entire holiday experience"

The design of the newly-opened Lefay Resort and Spa Dolomitti in Italy aims to celebrate and protect its spectacular surroundings

features
Stephen Barrett (left) 
and John McElgunn (right) were both made partners at RSHP in 2016
"Leisure space – public space – is at the very root of democracy, and architecture is about democracy"

As RSHP completes its latest cultural project, we speak to two of its partners about why Richard Rogers isn’t leaving his succession to chance

Former track and field athlete Phillip Mills is the founder and CEO of Les Mills
"We’ve designed the space so that the atmosphere is intimate"

Les Mills’ new studio spaces at its iconic Auckland City Gym showcase a trend away from masculine ‘grunty’ gyms to something altogether different

Manuelle Gautrand
"The cities where you have good cultural buildings and facilities – it’s a way for people to mix, to share the city in a much deeper way"

The French architect and winner of the 2017 European Prize for Architecture tells us why she is determined to surprise

cladkit product news
LianTronics’ glasses-free 3D Star Trek LED screen attracts attention
Magali Robathan
LianTronics’ giant curved LED wall with stunning glasses-less 3D spaceship display effect has attracted many on the street of Chengdu, ...
Atelier Alain Ellouz launches handcrafted precious stone lighting collection
LYRA has a sleek, cylindrical design complete with an elegant brass dimming switch
Megan Whitby
LYRA, GAMA, MONA and ATHENA are the first pieces from designer Atelier Alain Ellouz’s new.édition collection of handcrafted stone lighting ...
Siminetti unveils first glimpses of Mother of Pearl decorative surfaces inspired by the four seasons
The new winter design is finished with naturally occurring hexagonal patterns found in snowflakes
Megan Whitby
Siminetti has collaborated with British designer Chrisanna London to create a luxury Mother of Pearl decorative surface range inspired by ...
cladkit product news
Fabio Alemanno Design uses elegant semi-precious stones to create memorable spa experiences
Alemanno believes the stones are well-placed in the spa environment thanks to their capacity to positively support physical and mental health
Megan Whitby
Fabio Alemanno Design has expanded its collection with semi-precious stones to enhance spas, wellness facilities, hotels and private residences. The ...
Diamond balloon concept merges tourist attraction with advertising billboard
Magali Robathan
A group of Dutch engineers have presented a new attractions concept that combines a flying observation cabin with LED digital ...
Cosm unveils Experience Centre with ‘one of a kind’ LED dome
The new Experience Centre houses a 20m LED dome
Magali Robathan
Cosm, a global technology company that builds end-to-end solutions for immersive experiences, has unveiled its Experience Centre which houses a ...
cladkit product news
Móz Designs columns anchor the world’s largest indoor aquarium
The design of the columns was inspired by the sea
Magali Robathan
After a two-year renovation, Oakland-based metal experts Móz Designs have unveiled their inclusion in Georgia Aquarium’s new shark gallery. Located ...
Christie laser projectors power new Five Senses Bubble dome theatre
The dome aims to integrate technology with arts and culture
Magali Robathan
Christie® GS Series 1DLP® laser projectors are delivering vivid and lifelike visuals in a new dome theatre located in Xiong’an ...
ASPA International launches handheld UV-C light disinfection lamp
The compact plug-in product can be used easily in a commercial spa or domestic setting to disinfect surfaces with UV-C light
Megan Whitby
For over 30 years, ASPA International has designed and built high-quality spas for the hotel, health and wellness sectors. During ...
x
Sign up with CLAD for regular news updates
Koelnmesse GmbH / FSB
Koelnmesse GmbH / FSB