Pretty Much the Last Thing You Want to See at Top of Willis Tower

There’s a reason thrill rides are called “thrill” rides. People engage in them for the thrill of cheating death. Even if the chance that something life-shortening might happen is 0.000001%, it’s still a thrill to ride a roller coaster, parachute from a plane, or mention Aunt Margie’s mole at Thanksgiving dinner.

What a fully-functioning floor at The Ledge is supposed to look like (File)
What a fully-functioning floor at The Ledge is supposed to look like (File)

Huggies were fudged all around the Willis Tower’s Skydeck this week when the floor of one of the glass containers that make up The Ledge thrill experience cracked in front of dozens of tourists.

Instead of running for his life, a man named Jesus Pintado made a video of the event and posted it on YouTube. There’s not much to see in the video from the 103rd floor — mostly people standing around and the glass floor of one of the Ledge modules seemingly more scuffed than cracked. But you can follow this link to judge for yourself.

A glass box crammed with news reporters on opening day of The Ledge (File)
A glass box crammed with news reporters on opening day of The Ledge (File)

This isn’t the first time the glass has cracked at The Ledge. It happened back in 2014. And as we reported when The Ledge opened in 2009, it’s supposed to do that. The upper layers of glass are expected to shatter and break to protect the layers below supporting the people

Each of the sides is formed from three layers of glass bonded together.  They are designed to hold at least 10,000 pounds.  But even though they’re mostly glass, the ledges are incredibly strong.  In early testing done on the 103rd floor, the glass was deliberately broken.  But the bonding material was enough to maintain the structural integrity of the pod and support its load.

We tried to see if Skydeck Chicago had an official statement about what happened, but it hasn’t updated its press web page in six years.

As my neighbor would shout down the street whenever the cops were called to her apartment, “Nothing to see here!” But again, just the thought of something bad happening is a thrill. And that’s why these things are built.

Location: 233 South Wacker Drive, The Loop

Editor

Author: Editor

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

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