Sears Tower Completed; Creative Demolition Ideas Invited


A scale model of Chicago's Sears Tower, standing 30 feet high and constructed of 15,000 Jenga blocks, is on display in C.B. Hedgcock. Bryant Varney (AIS) completed the project in late June.


"This is by far my biggest and tallest tower to date," said Varney, who previously built models of the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, Rockefeller Center and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. "In the past, I've always built them in the library, where I was limited by the height of the ceiling. The Hedgcock atrium opened up more possibilities. Fred (Joyal) helped make it happen in there, and I was able to use portable scaffolding."


Varney worked on the model nights and weekend for about a month. The finished product is comprised of 55 stories half of the Sears Tower 's actual 110. But, like the original, it is capped off with blinking antennae.


"(NMU student) Andrew Beaulieu built the antennae. The battery pack that supplies their power weighs roughly 7 pounds. It was very difficult to place atop the tower because I'm used to handling mere wooden blocks that are a fraction of the weight. I was very jittery and it was the most difficult balancing act I have ever performed. I knew it would only take one falling Jenga block to fell this tower, creating a domino effect. But once the battery was in position, it provided much-needed stability for the antennae to be lowered and connected."


Varney said his affinity for Jenga-block creations began in 1996, when he tried out a friend's game that was about to be discarded. He soon acquired another set to build more elaborate towers. Two sets led to four, four to eight, and the rest is history.


Amazingly, Varney does not sketch blueprints of his projects in advance. He said most of the design is in his head, but he relies on mathematics and measuring to ensure they are in proper scale and proportion. Varney has had at least one memorable precarious situation midway through construction.


"The Leaning Tower of Pisa fell seven times. I built a sub-platform on an angle and the balconies collapsed. I eventually gave up and built it with the sub-floor close to the actual floor. When that was done, the weight kept it from collapsing. I was very frazzled during that one."


Varney would like the Sears Tower to remain on display in Hedgcock at least through Thanksgiving. When it is time for the structure to come down, he said dismantling it block by block won't do. He is trying to come up with a more creative and visual mode of demolition.

One person has already suggested selling $1 tickets for a chance to roll a bowling ball at the structure, with proceeds going to charity. If you have a unique idea for how the Sears Tower should fall, please send it to Campus editor Kristi Evans at Some suggestions might appear in a future issue of this newsletter.


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Updated: October 26, 2005

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