A brand new design from Solomon Cordwell Buenz is to be used to build the tallest glass elevator in North America, with the design climbing the exterior of the Aon Center skyscraper in Chicago. The modernist structure will have the glass elevator run up its side in just 60-seconds, allowing tourists to take in extravagant panoramic views of the city. Solomon Cordwell Buenz put together the design that will rise up the northwest corner of the building, with the glass elevator shaft allowing access up the 1,136-feet high building, where tourists can disembark the architectural modern design to a rooftop observatory overlooking the city.
The elevator shaft will be completely glazed and rise to 1,000 feet (305 metres). This makes it the tallest elevator in the entirety of North America, but not quite the tallest elevator in the world. This honour belongs to the Bailong Elevator in the Wulingyuan area of Zhangjiajie, China. The 326-metre high elevator runs up the side of a cliff.
The glass elevator in Chicago will end on the corner of the Aon Center, and be comprised of double-deck elevators that are anchored every fourth floor. It is incredible that the height is reached in just a minute, and will provide access to the third public observatory of its kind in Chicago, adding to The John Hancock Center’s 360 Chicago, and the Willis Tower Skydeck.
Gaining access to the new observatory deck, visitors will reach the summit in 60-seconds and then have access to an observation deck that includes an indoor viewing area with panoramic views of Chicago, including Lake Michigan, the Loop, and Millennium Park. As an accompaniment to the skyscraper at 200 East Randolph Street, a new building is being designed by SCB, providing access to the elevator and observation area that is separate to the skyscraper itself. This low-lying structure is designed to be wrapped in glass and have a slanted metal roof. Inside will be ticket booths and shops in a spectacular setting. The idea behind the separate access is that it allows the main, existing, lobby for Aon Center to continue to function for tenants of the building.
The third tallest building in Chicago, the Aon Center was completed in 1974, with vertical strips stretching to the top originally clad in Italian Carrara marble, and stainless steel straps added later to hold the marble in place. In the 1990s the building was refaced with Mount Airy white granite. The new elevator and observatory deck adds a touch of elegance and glamour to the structure, and it is expected that with construction beginning this spring, that it should be completed sometime in 2021.
North American skyscrapers play such an integral role in the landscape of all urban environments and projects such as this one demonstrate the necessity and the desire for new ways to engage with tourists and to ensure there are different ways to explore and enjoy an urban landscape. A glass elevator that will be the tallest in North America will certainly tick a lot of boxes for tourists in the coming years.