Think glass is weak? Think again.

Willis Tower Glass Observation Pod

Despite years of practice, Robyn, Beck and I are not levitating 103 storeys above Chicago (20 feet is about our limit). And, no, our magic carpet didn’t suddenly vanish, either – if I had a magic carpet, I certainly wouldn’t be bragging about it on a blog. Obviously, I’d be planning world domination, so I could make all of you my minions. Let’s just take a moment to revel in that thought…

Willis Tower Above the CloudsAnyway. If you wake up in the middle of the night with an irrepressible urge to walk on glass that is higher than the clouds, Chicago’s Willis (formerly Sears) Tower is the place to be. You might want to wait until they open in the morning, though. I’d hate to read about your bullet ridden corpse in the paper. Not to mention, I’d have one less minion.

Seriously, though. I don’t have a magic carpet.

Once the tallest building in the world, the Willis skyscraper was recently retrofitted with glass boxes that project beyond its facade. While I understand the engineering behind this, it still makes me nervous. Maybe that’s why it makes me nervous.

The glass floor is not resting on a steel frame (i.e. strong and unbreakable) like you would expect. It is suspended by little bolts drilled through it and attached to the side panes of glass by a few moreWillis Tower Observation Pods bolts. So, the glass floor is actually supported by the glass walls. The glass walls are themselves supported by a steel frame at the top (finally, some steel!) via more holes and bolts. That’s a lot of holes between you and the pavement below. The glass floor relies on the integrity of the swiss-cheesy glass walls to support the entire weight of you, hordes of well fed tourists and the glass box. Hope you didn’t eat a big lunch, too!

Also, did I mention you are walking on glass? Yes, it’s thick and laminated, and a magnificent work of engineering, but it’s still glass.

Willis Tower Observation Pods from Above

Willis Tower

Published by

Tim Bjella

Principal architect and interior designer for Arteriors / Bjella Architecture.

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