One World Trade Center declared the tallest building in the US at 1,776 feet – beating Chicago tower

  • The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat made the decision on Tuesday after debates over whether One WTC’s 408-foot spire could be considered part of the total height
  • Spire lit up for the first time on One World Trade Center last Friday – and it can be seen from 50 miles away

One World Trade Center has officially been declared the tallest building in the U.S. at 1,776 feet today.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat made the decision on Tuesday after debates over whether One WTC’s 408-foot spire could be considered part of the total height.

One World Trade Center had faced some stiff competition from the Willis Tower in Chicago – coincidentally the city where the committee is based.


One World Trade Center towers over downtown Manhattan as seen from Brooklyn. It is scheduled to open next year

Rising from the ashes of 9/11, the new World Trade Center tower has punched above the New York skyline to reach its powerfully symbolic height of 1,776 feet and become the tallest building in the country.
The committee of architects, recognized as the arbiters on world building heights, had met to decide whether the tower in the Big Apple or the Windy City was the loftiest.

One World Trade Center stands as a monument to those killed in the terrorist attacks and a ruling against the spire would have dimmed the significance of its height which symbolizes America’s founding year of 1776. Without the needle, the building measures 1,368 feet.
What’s more, the decision was made by an organization based in Chicago, whose cultural and architectural history is embodied by the Willis – formerly Sears – Tower.

‘Most of the time these decisions are not so controversial,’ said Daniel Safarik, an architect and spokesman for the nonprofit Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
The 30 members of its Height Committee met to render a judgment behind closed doors in Chicago, where the world’s first skyscraper appeared in 1884.
The question over One World Trade Center, which remains under construction and is expected to open next year, arose because of a change to the design of its tower-topping needle.


Under the council’s current criteria, spires that are an integral part of a building’s aesthetic design count; broadcast antennas that can be added and removed do not.

The designers of One World Trade Center had intended to enclose the mast’s communications gear in decorative cladding made of fiberglass and steel. But the developer removed that exterior shell from the design, saying it would be impossible to properly maintain or repair.

Without it, the question is whether the mast is now primarily just a broadcast antenna.

According to the architecture firm behind the building, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, the needle will have a communications platform for radio and television equipment.

If the matter weren’t so steeped in emotion it might have set off some of the good-natured ribbing emblematic of the history of one-upmanship between New York and Chicago.

But One World Trade Center is a monument to American resilience admired well beyond Manhattan.

‘I don’t think anybody’s going to argue with the pride in building that new tower,’ said 31-year-old software developer Brett Tooley, who works across the street from the Willis Tower.

‘Not only is it going to be the tallest building; it’s going to be one of the strongest buildings in the history of America. It’s a marvel of engineering.’

From great heights: Anna Kane, five, looks down from the glass balcony called The Ledge, suspended 1,353 feet in the air and jutting four feet out from the Willis Tower's 103rd floor Skydeck


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