The Williams Tower (formerly the Transco Tower), is a skyscraper located in the Uptown District of Houston. It was designed by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee, in association with Houston-based Morris-Aubry Architects, and erected in 1983. The tower is among Houston's most visible buildings and can be seen from as far away as Katy, Texas, a city located approximately 30 miles (48 km) west of Houston. The building is the 4th-tallest in Texas and the 23rd-tallest in the United States. When it was built, in 1983, it stood as the tallest skyscraper located outside a city's central business district.
The building was originally named for its major tenant, Transco Energy corporation. The name stayed on the building until 1999 after Hines, the building's owner, agreed to change the name of the building some four years after Transco was bought by Williams in 1995. The building once again bears the name of its major tenant, the Williams energy company, which is headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Even after the name change, the building is often referred to as "the Transco" by long-time Houston residents.
At 64 stories and 901 feet (275 m), the Williams Tower is the tallest building in Houston outside of the Downtown area. When it was constructed in 1983, it was also the world's tallest skyscraper outside of a city's central business district. Williams Tower was named "Skyscraper of the Century" in the December 1999 issue of Texas Monthly magazine.
The building is unique in that it was built to function as two separate towers stacked directly on top of one another, one comprising the first forty floors and the other the forty-first to sixty-fourth. The building has separate banks of elevators and lobbies for each of the two building sections. A majority of the bottom 40 floors are occupied by Williams. The remainder of the building is occupied by a variety of tenants. The building's stepback design suggests one of Johnson's earlier (and smaller) works, the IDS Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The building was purchased by Hines (the original developer) in 2008.
On the 51st floor is a sky lobby and observation deck, which due to security reasons is no longer open to the public, and is most likely closed off after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
During the night-time hours, the building is defined by a 7,000 watt beacon that sweeps across the sky and can be seen up to 40 miles (65 km) away on a clear night. Topped by such a beacon, the tower hearkens back to the Palmolive Building in Chicago, Illinois. The building, along with its beacon, is a Houston landmark that identifies the Uptown Houston district.
In a lush grass field adjacent to the Williams Tower is another Houston landmark, the Williams Waterwall.