Willis Tower by SkB Architects

Willis Tower

SkB Architects is the collaborative design architect on the exterior of this significant new development, including the design of how the tower base meets the street, and the design of the tower’s three main entries. The design goal is to evolve the tower’s base to create an inviting and vibrant pedestrian experience, while honoring Willis Tower’s role as a unique Chicago and American icon: to create a sense of place, not just a place to work.

Willis Tower
Image © EQ Office / Blackstone, courtesy of Gensler

Catalog is composed of more than 300,000-square-feet of new retail, dining and entertainment space, along with 150,000-square-feet of new space for tenant use within the Tower, and a 30,000-square-feet deck and garden. The design will bring people in contact with the building to create an entirely new experience for the 15,000 people who work at Willis Tower, as well as countless Chicago residents and visitors. Conceptually, the idea is for people to ‘own’ their experience in the Tower. As a Chicago icon, Willis Tower is everybody’s tower and people should feel invited in.

Willis Tower
Image © EQ Office / Blackstone, courtesy of Gensler

The material language developed by SkB Architects respects the existing tower, while enhancing the building’s visual and physical detail. It does so in a way that is human-scaled, modern, and approachable—an attitude in support of a sense of community. Major design elements vary in depth to create greater visual variety with respect to façade modulation. Textural and tactile variety is also employed, such as using patterned white terra cotta at the Wacker and Franklin Street entrances, and dark terra cotta to frame the retail storefronts along the canopies.

Willis Tower
Image ©  EQ Office / Blackstone, courtesy of Gensler

Other design elements include: 1)  Building entries that are tuned to their users and the neighborhood. For example, the Jackson Street entry is composed largely of glass since it is the main public entry point for the retail podium and Tower Hall, and as such, communicates a sense of openness and welcome through its transparency and; 2) A mix of macro and micro design moves to create a dynamic and welcoming facade, rewarding the observer from a distance as well as up close. Source by SkB Architects.

Willis Tower
Image ©  EQ Office / Blackstone, courtesy of Gensler
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
  • Architect: SkB Architects
  • Principal: Kyle Gaffney, Shannon Gaffney, Steve Olson
  • Project Manager: Steve Olson
  • Building Ownership: Blackstone (New York)
  • Building Management: EQ Office (Chicago)
  • Exterior Façade Design: SKB Architects (Seattle)
  • Executive Architect: Gensler (Chicago)
  • Interior Design: Gensler (Chicago)
  • Signage & Wayfinding: Core12 & Gensler (Chicago)
  • Structural: Thornton Tomasetti (Chicago)
  • MEP/FP: ESD (Chicago)
  • Civil: V3 (Chicago)
  • Facade: Thornton Tomasetti (Chicago)
  • Acoustic: KJWW (Chicago)
  • Fire/Life Safety: WJE (Chicago)
  • Parking: Walker Parking (Chicago)
  • Lighting: Kugler Ning (New York)
  • Landscape: OLIN (Philadelphia) | Forum (Chicago)
  • Contractor: Turner/Clayco (Chicago)
  • Year: 2018
  • Images: © EQ Office / Blackstone, courtesy of Gensler

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