The long-running debate is finally over. But the tedious argument has only just begun.
The Height Committee of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat declared today that One World Trade Center is the nation's tallest building. The 408-foot spire nudged 1 WTC over the top, despite the fact that the nation's now-second-tallest building—Chicago's 1,451-foot Willis Tower—eclipses the 1,368 feet of the 1 WTC building sans antenna.
The Council, which is housed out of the Illinois Institute of Technology (right there in Chicago!), determined that the spire on 1 WTC was a structural component of the building. The antennae at the top of Willis Tower, on the other hand, were deemed communication components, mere afterthoughts from a structural point of view.
"What it really comes down to is this: What are we measuring?" Antony Wood, executive director of the Council on Tall Buildings told NPR earlier this month. "If we are measuring man's ability to put materials above the plane of the earth, then it should just be material, irrespective of what that material or function is. Or, are we measuring man's ability to put man above the plane of the earth? Are we going with the highest occupied floor? Or something in between?"
The election of one of the nation's two popes as the official leader based on the height of its mitre was not marked by the billowing of white smoke—despite the fact that the Council on Tall Buildings sounds more opaque than the Vatican.
Some met the decision with considerable dismay.
"We were in a staff meeting," says Lynn Osmond, Hon. AIA, president of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. "We were all dismayed to hear the news." She notes, however, that Chicago still boasts the architects who build the tallest buildings—Adrian Smith, who designed the 2,722-foot-tall Burj Khalifa while at SOM and whose firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture designed the forthcoming 3,281-foot-tall Kingdom Tower. And that anyway, Chicago streets still afford better views of its skyline.
Others felt somewhat less invested in the debate.
"This is a decision I could not care about less," says Alexandra Lange, Design Observer architecture critic and Loeb Fellow.
"Danny Libeskind gets the last laugh," says Mark Lamster, architecture critic at The Dallas Morning News, referring to the architect who originally planned the 1,776-feet Freedom Tower structure (spire included). When Libeskind was removed from the project, David Childs, FAIA, chairman emeritus for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill—the firm, of course, that designed Chicago's Willis Tower—took over on 1 WTC, and thereby undid SOM's record. "Who'd ever have thunk it?"
Take a dizzying look at the view from the top:
This post has been updated.