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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I felt the earth move once!

Actually, I have had two very notable visits to The Willis Tower--formerly The Sears Tower--2nd tallest building in the western hemisphere. It rises 108 stories, 1,452-feet (1730 counting antennas) above Chicago's downtown. Its ultimate height was determined by what the FAA would allow so it would not affect planes landing at Ohare and Midway airports.

But first, as they say on television, some interesting background.

One World Trade Center--built in 2006 as a tribute to the two World Trade Center buildings--including antennas is 46 feet taller at 1776 to honor the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Completed more than 40 years ago, The Willis Tower is an ancient, not particularly beautiful building by comparison to today's giants. But it was for a number of years, the tallest building in the world. That was before technology and bragging rights made the race for the sky a worthy pursuit. Today it occupies last place in the tallest top 10 list.

Notably though, the race for the tallest is still to the future. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright who died in 1957 proposed to build a mile-high building rising 548 stories to house exclusive residences for more than 100,000 residents. He had the plans ready for presentation to Chicago movers and shakers but the practicality and the cost put the project on permanent hold just one year before he died. He did however show that a structure that high was possible.

Today the focus in New York where skyscrapers abound has turned to very tall and slender exclusive residence buildings using new technology with different types of unique problems to solve. More of that next post. Hint: If you are liking that thought of that killer view of Central Park but aren't yet in the multi-multi-million (or billion) dollar bracket, some nice little bungalow almost anywhere might be a better option. More about that tomorrow.

Now, about me... it's all about me:
View from the Willis Tower 103 floors above Chicago
Experience No. 1: The Willis Tower is actually built four feet shorter on one side and designed to sway as much as 6 feet in hefty winds. (It ain't called the Windy City for nothing.) I was on the 100th floor in the offices of a large attorney firm surrounded by at least a dozen 'dot every i, cross every t' legals as we were closing on the purchase of a group of magazines. (That was my business.)                                                                                                                                                       
The winds were howling. We could all feel the building sway as if we were in a boat on the sea. Six feet at 1/4th mile high made me appreciate how those ultra high divers must feel as they climb that skinny ladder to the top. It was no small thing to the senses to imagine us about to topple to our deaths. We were not much comforted to be told 'That's why we don't fill the coffee cups and water glasses too full (ha ha ha.)"

Personally, I believe the whole thing was a bargaining ploy to get us to act irrationally just to get the heck out of there.

Experience No. 2: Perhaps the weirdest phenomena I have ever experienced is when I took my family to the Tower's 103rd floor SkyDeck on a later trip. The crowded elevator ride to the top and down is without an attendant. It took just over a minute in the large express elevator, gulping to clear our ears as we rose. Our progress was marked by a silhouette of the building on a monitor. Rising, the image filled, as if one was pouring milk into it, until we were at the top. Going down, the image emptied.

But a strange thing happened on our descent. All 40 of us in the giant cage watched progress of our trip to ground level. But about half way down, the image showed us stopping and then beginning to rise to the top again. Now we all knew that the elevator NEVER stopped or even slowed. It was a straight shot down. Yet, the image told our senses differently. When we finally stopped and the doors opened, we all felt sure we were at the top again... but we weren't. There was a big laugh and sigh of relief as we all realized we were unintentionally duped.

Proof again that mind over matter is a fact.

Tomorrow: The longest commutes by elevator.

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