1WTC Crowned Tallest Building in U.S.


New York’s new One World Trade Center skyscraper has been officially crowned North America’s tallest building, displacing Chicago’s Willis Tower (the former Sears Tower) of its bragging rights.

That’s the conclusion of the Height Committee of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the arbiters of official building heights around the world.

Including its 408-foot spire, the One World Trade Center in New York City reaches a symbolic 1,776 feet to its architectural top, which eclipses the 1,451-foot Willis Tower. The former Sears Tower held the record for 40 years.

When complete, One World Trade Center will also become the third-tallest building in the world, behind the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Makkah Royal Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which stands at 1,972 feet.

Ending a Debate

The height of the Lower Manhattan building has been debated for months, as the nature of the mast structure atop the tower was questioned, due in part to design changes that resulted in removal of the structure’s architectural cladding.

However, the debate ended when the Height Committee, made up of international architects, engineers and contractors, made a decision Tuesday (Nov. 12) and released this announcement.

© Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

International architects, engineers and contractors met  Friday (Nov. 8) in Chicago to discuss the official height of New York City building. Designer David Childs presented to the committee.

One World Trade Center’s chief architect, David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLC, and Ken Lewis, project director at SOM, gave a detailed presentation to the committee, which affirmed that the structure on top of the building was meant to be a permanent architectural feature and not a removable antenna.

Symbolic Height

The building was designed to reach 1,776 feet in order to commemorate the year of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and to reaffirm the principles behind the nation’s founding in the face of attacks that destroyed the original World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Height Committee.

“The design of One World Trade Center… reinforces its role as a symbol of resurgence on this important site,” said Council Executive Director Anthony Wood.

“In particular, the spire which holds the beacon of light, shining out at the symbolic height of 1,776 feet, is especially poignant—echoing the similarly symbolic beacon atop the Statue of Liberty across the water.”


When complete, One World Trade Center will become the third tallest building in the world, behind the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Makkah Royal Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which stands at 1,972 feet.

Also, the project’s architects told the committee that the height of the mast itself was significant because it increased the observable height of the building from the top of its steel parapet at 1,368 feet, the height of the original World Trade Center Tower 1.

Investing in the Decision

“I feel completely satisfied that this building achieved what it set out to do,” Childs said. “Beginning in 2005, we used the Council’s rules and designed around them. It’s an important statement for all of us to make.”

The mayor of Chicago disagrees with the committee’s decision, however.

“I just saw the decision,” Rahm Emanuel told reporters. “And I would just say to all the experts gathered in one room, 'If it looks like an antenna, acts like an antenna, then guess what? It is an antenna.' That’s number one.

“Number two,” he said, “I think (with) the Willis Tower, you will have a view that’s unprecedented in its beauty, its landscape, and its capacity to capture something. Something you can’t do from an antenna.”

The mayor’s comments reflect an intense rivalry between the cities, from everything to architecture to pizza, reports USA Today.

Opening in 2014

One World Trade Center is slated for completion in early 2014.

When complete, the building will reportedly include three million square feet of office space on 71 office floors, a grand public lobby, and an observation deck.

For more information and updates on construction and developments on the 16 acre World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, see the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey website.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Building design; Building owners; Cladding; Color + Design; Commercial Construction; Construction; Design

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