Aon Center’s Glass Elevator-to-the-Sky to be Unveiled Tonight

Glass as an amusement is a big thing these days.  It seems to have started with that glass bridge over the Grand Canyon on the Hualapai reservation in Arizona.

Aon Center from the ground up.

Now we have a glass slide at the top of the U.S. Bank Building in Los Angeles.  The glass “ledges” at the top of the Willis Tower. The glass “tilt” mechanism at the top of 875 North Michigan.  And now the Aon Center is getting in on the transparent action.

Aon Center - Chicago, Illinois - July, 2005 - 004

Aon Center (Courtesy of Artefaqs architecture stock photography)

At a public meeting tonight, 601W Companies, the building’s owner, will show off what it wants to strap to the northwest corner of the tower: an 83-story glass elevator to carry people to the skyscraper’s upcoming observation deck.

The new observatory should offer some very impressive views.  But getting tourists there is problematic because of the office building’s security and elevator setup.  So, some smart person had the idea of isolating the map clutchers from the briefcase bearers by putting the entrance to the new attraction on the exterior of the building.  Streeterville’s SCB is designing the thing, and for once, the canard “thinking outside the box” actually applies.

If you want to give your input on the project, show up at the Aon Center (200 East Randolph Street) at 6:30pm tonight.  The meeting is in the Mid-Ameirca Club on the 80th floor, which is reason enough to go.

I’ve been in a number of glass elevators from Houston to Vancouver to Tokyo.  None are this big.  It’s a perfect opportunity to install a bar in the observation deck because a stiff drink is in order after riding in one.

Location: 200 East Randolph Street, The Loop

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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