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The Skydeck Experience at Willis Tower

Immersive interactive technologies raise the bar for visitor experience at the country’s highest observation deck.

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INTRODUCTION

One hundred and three floors separate the two elements of an amazing experience in one of the world’s tallest buildings, but together they tell the story of Chicago in a way that is engaging, memorable and breath-taking.

Skydeck Chicago sits on the 103rd floor of the iconic Willis Tower giving visitors stunning views over the world-famous skyline of the Windy City. Owners EQ Office embarked on an extensive redevelopment of the experience to enhance the space, with new interactive digital installations and a museum on the lower level. Together, they immerse visitors in Chicago’s story in a uniquely inspiring way.

Electrosonic, in partnership with Chicago Scenic Studios, Thinc Design and Squint/Opera, was responsible for engineering and integrating complex LED, projection and distributed audio systems throughout the newly renovated Skydeck Chicago experience.

The Skydeck Experience at Willis Tower, Chicago

 

OVERVIEW

The Skydeck Experience begins on the lower level with an immersive, interactive museum. ‘Origins’ tells the story of Chicago’s formative years through soundbites, animation, motion graphics, lighting effects, video, physical models and special effects.

The spectacular ‘Fly through Architecture’ display is a 14 feet x 8 feet LED wall that takes visitors on a dizzying tour of Chicago’s architectural skyline. In the ‘L Train’ exhibit, passengers ‘visit’ eight districts created by video and CGI effects displayed on the windows.

A distributed audio system plays background music and special announcements, while digital signage with a custom interface provides easily updated visitor information.

The multi-projector ‘Map Wall’ exhibit showcases the urban playground of Chicago, augmented by in-depth information communicated through animated data.

Up on the 103rd floor, the main attraction is the stunning cityscape and ‘The Ledge’ – a glass balcony projecting from the building. To enhance the experience, 6 interactive displays and informative videos engage the audience. A motion graphic animation tells the story of ‘The Ledge’. There are ‘Social Media’ columns where visitors can post their thoughts and an interactive ‘Sequin Wall’ where visitors can create drawings or messages.

CHALLENGE

EQ Offices wanted to reimagine the attractions and create a world-class visitor center that would inform, educate, entertain and thrill. Designed by Thinc Design and media by Squint/ Opera, the team needed an integrator with experience in complex AV systems to bring the creative vision to life of an interactive, immersive environment featuring many different technologies. The project had to be completed within an aggressive schedule to meet the opening date, with the additional pressure of complying with COVID restrictions.

SOLUTION

Electrosonic collaborated with the partners to turn the concept into reality within a tight window through effective project management. The solutions drew on Electrosonic’s expertise in display technology and audio. ‘Origins’, for example, featured ultra-short-throw lenses and blended projection that required thorough engineering. The project highlighted Electrosonic’s ability to fuse architecture, storytelling with technology.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The Skydeck Experience is now a must-see destination for Chicago residents and visitors, and one of Tripadvisor’s Top Ten attractions of the city. The immersive, interactive experience on both floors complements the star attraction – the spectacular views and the thrill of ‘The Ledge’. And, it meets the owners’ vision of a venue that celebrates Chicago’s proud heritage while informing and entertaining visitors of all ages, backgrounds and locations.

Project Details

Client
EQ Offices
Location
Chicago, Illinois
Size
45,000 sq.ft
Services
Build & System Integration
Digital Communications & Media Walls
Specialty Projection
Audio & Acoustics
Content Distribution
Detailed Engineering
Project Management
Commissioning & Programming
Media Management
Electrosonic brings a deep skillset in terms of technical skills and firm resources; so they have the chops to get the job done.
Blasko Ristic
President, Chicago Scenic Studios
Sky walk 103 stories up, visitors can step outside the Willis Tower for the ultimate view of the Chicago skyline.
Fly Chicago A massive curved projection solution provides a panoramic view of Chicago as visitors experience the sensation of flying through the iconic skyline.
Virtual tour Visitors ‘tour’ famous Chicago neighborhoods in a replica L train, with LED displays and audio solutions bringing that ride to life through the floor and carriage windows.

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