The Sears Tower--the tallest building in the United States and once, the tallest in the world--is to be renamed for Willis Group Holdings, an insurance company that is its newest tenant. After the company moves into its offices in the tower this summer, the building will be known as the Willis Tower.
Understandably, the name change is controversial. Chicagoans wonder about the identity of the icon that has punctuated its skyline for nearly four decades:
Left unexplained is how the makeover helps the building achieve a LEED rating, but one assumes that the paint job alone will reflect a lot of light, and therefore cut cooling costs:
Sources said the owners are considering an expensive paint job,
recladding the tower in silver. Since its opening in 1973, Chicago's
iconic tower and the nation's tallest building has been adorned in
A brighter look could draw fresh attention to the tower, which has struggled to hold tenants against newer generations of office buildings. Silver could figure into a broader effort to "rebrand" the building and highlight its advances in energy efficiency.
The owners...could seek what's known as a silver LEED rating, bestowed by a group that promotes environmental advances in buildings. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating is third best after gold and platinum, but nonetheless an achievement for a building that's 36 years old.
How do these plans impact Chicago's sense of itself? One columnist points out that a significant percentage of the city's set pieces have, in fact, been renamed over recent years. From baseball parks and golf courses to highways and department stores, the city has become something else than what it once was, at least in name. There's also the fact that Sears, the building's namesake original tenant, hasn't resided there in nearly 20 years.
How do you put a value on a name? How does one rectify the constantly changing nature of a city with sentimental and historic value?