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Sears Tower (Chicago, USA)

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      05.11.2004 02:06
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      “There are lies, damn lies and statistics”
      Churchill was accredited with this quote.

      You don’t have to look hard to find examples of how governments, newspaper editors, companies and others look to statistics to get their message across, whilst covering up more salient and embarrassing failures.

      Even I do it.

      When the boss wants some information, I’ll tell him what he wants to hear, and do so without lying or compromising my integrity. So if this year’s performance is not up on last year, I’ll tell him instead about how we’re outperforming competitors!

      I’m not a Skyscraper buff, but over the years I have walked under their shadows. I have admired them, photographed them, climbed their stairs and enjoyed their views. I have had many a case of ‘sore-neck’ syndrome.

      And with so many skyscrapers, there come many claims. City authorities, tourism bosses, proud city-dwellers and landlords so often boast to have the tallest building in the World. It’s an argument that will continue as the tiger economies of the Far-East continue to build high buildings. Make your skyscraper taller with a dome, and if it still isn’t the record books… Just stick a TV mast on the top.

      Lets talk about The Sears Tower in Chicago. I don't know where Dooyoo got that image from, that you saw by the heading..... It looks nothing like the place I am talking about!

      I visited the Sears Tower in 1996 when it claimed to be the World’s tallest building. At the same time, Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur was approaching completion, and would be the new ‘highest’. Sears Tower’s website still claims superiority, Despite Petronas and Sears, a new kid on the Taiwan block is eclipsing both, with a new high. Well, depending on who you talk to.

      Toronto continues to boast The CN Tower, but does so under the guise of being a ‘self-supporting structure’ and not a ‘building’.
      The Poles were…. Well… a pole in Poland added another slant, a TV mast, albeit not self-supporting but ‘guyed’ (Canadians breathe a sigh of relief!) boasting the “highest man-made structure” category. A lousy TV mast that collapsed recently!

      By the time you read this, it all may have changed again. The Far-East are chucking up skyscrapers at a stunning rate. Inspired designs, locally influenced and well… just bloody high. Do a google, and find sites that list the highest buildings in the World, and you see a sight similar to this years Olympic medal table! China creeping up and the US hanging on.

      The US; home of the skyscraper, has maybe lost its love affair with the race for the sky. We all know why, and its understandable. The Chicago Tribune last year reported how space in Sears Tower was proving difficult to lease, two years after 9/11.

      In spite of this, Sears Tower remains the highest building in North America. At 30 years old, it can not contest with the brave designs of Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai or Taipei 101 in Taiwan, but in the context of a great American city, the Sears Tower is awesome.

      Beautiful, sheer, and tall, Sears suits Chicago, and Chicago suits Sears. Transplant one of the Asian super-towers to Chicago and Sears would still win.
      NYC’s World Trade Center was ambitious for the time. Nobody dared build to 110 floors. But this was an era in which Kennedy spoke of sending men to the moon.
      What a perspective, what an inspiration! The WTC happened.
      Today’s inspiration in the Far-East comes from beating someone else.

      I just can not imagine Chicago in 1973. I was not even born.
      But it was then, the Sears Tower out-topped the WTC to become the World’s tallest. I spoke earlier of all the different outfits that claim their building is higher than thous.
      To put it straight, the US-based council on Tall buildings has announced four categories;

      Height to highest occupied floor
      Height to roof
      Height to top of building
      Height to tip of antennae

      Yet again…. Lies, damn lies etc….
      It seems you can just order a bigger antennae if your builder stops short, and still make the record books!
      A touchy subject I know, so why not see for yourself at http://skyscraperpage.com/diagrams/?1241105
      See for yourself how the Worlds top ten line up in scale, and how spires, domes, masts and the like distort things.

      Getting back to Sears.

      Its on Wacker Drive, and an easy walk from the Chicago Loop, or the Michigan Avenue. Quite easy to find…. Just walk towards the tallest building. There are no other monstrous buildings that obscure your view. I can not remember how much it cost me, but according to their website, a visit to the Skydeck is around $10 today for an adult. As is par for the course in the US,, expect tax on top.

      Expect a speedy one minute lift ride to the 108 floor (Wow! 2 floors per second!)
      And then expect to be disappointed!

      The observatory is just a vacant floor.

      Four tinted-glass walls, and four views covering North, South, West and East.
      Veterans from the Empire State building and World Trade Center (Yes, I am privileged to have stood atop that South Tower) will be searching for the shops, snacks, cheesy displays. Here, there are none.
      I can not remember whether there were toilets (Sorry…. Bathrooms) but just assume that this is it.

      Not only that, but the view, from this mega-height, also disappoints.
      To the South and West lie suburbs and roads. This building is not a great of greats (like The Empire State in Midtown) but a great standing alone.
      You may spot the State Penitentiary (That’s prison to you and I!) far below, with the prisoners exercising on the roof.

      Also, unlike ESB and WTC, this is enclosed. So make sure you take some tips on how to take a photo through glass.

      Then, I must mention the swaying. Yep, Chicago is apparently the windy city.
      At Street level, I was absorbing a pleasant sunny August day.
      Topping Sears was different. Having made the journey up NY’s high rise many times without account, I suddenly felt the odd unfamiliar shift here in Chicago.
      OK, it can’t be compared to sea-sickness, and you don’t end up rolling around the floor! But it is apparent.
      Put your trust in the architects, and remember how long this skyscraper has stood, through conditions more severe than a breezy August sunny day!
      To describe it is difficult. I guess its like being a teeeney bit drunk!
      The wobble adds to the memory.

      The view North is pretty impressive, and you can see plenty of Chicago’s finest skyscrapers. Pick out the John Hancock Tower and stick it on your agenda.
      It may not be as high as Sears, and it has a similar observatory, but it benefits from being right in the heart of the city, amongst the other towers and close to Lake Michigan. The views are better there!

      Summarising;

      This is a different experience to the Empire State Building and World Trade Center (for those lucky enough to have enjoyed its view) but it is worth doing.
      The John Hancock Tower has better views (including obviously the view of Sears!) but it is pointless advising not to do it!
      Any visitor to Chicago would ignore these thoughts and do The Sears anyway. It’s the biggest, sheerest and most imposing. It still clings to its Worldwide status, and still boasts more floors than the ‘higher’ Oriental upstarts.

      I am virtually the same age as Sears Tower. 30 years old.
      There are cars on British streets that are younger, yet you think, “Why is someone driving that?” There are other dated examples of society gone wrong within my lifetime, dinosaurs that we forget quickly and look to replace.

      Sears Tower is no dinosaur. It stands proud. It beams the US. I’ve been to Petronas Towers in Malaysia, Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, and frankly, they don’t reflect the hope and ambition that America does, demonstrating the skyscraper race 30 years ago. It seems that they were built because ‘it’s been done in USA, so lets have a bit’.
      New York and Chicago do work well, and Sears… well, It raised the standard, and it’s still right up there.










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