The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

November 12, 2013

One World Trade Center beats Willis Tower as tallest U.S. building

NEW YORK — They set out to build the tallest skyscraper in the world — a giant that would rise a symbolic 1,776 feet from the ashes of ground zero.

Those aspirations of global supremacy fell by the wayside long ago, but New York won a consolation prize Tuesday when an international architectural panel said it would recognize One World Trade Center as the tallest skyscraper in the United States.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, considered a world authority on supersized skyscrapers, announced its decision at simultaneous news conferences in New York and Chicago, home to the 1,451-foot Willis Tower, which is being dethroned as the nation’s tallest building.

Measuring the height of a building would seem to be a simple thing, but in the case of the new World Trade Center tower it is complicated by the 408-foot-tall needle atop the skyscraper’s roof.

The council’s verdict rested on a conclusion that the needle should be counted as part of the building’s total height. Without it, the tower would be just 1,368 feet tall, the same height as the original World Trade Center. That would make it smaller than not only the Willis, but also a 1,397-foot apartment building being built a short subway ride away near Central Park.

Speaking at his office in New York, council chairman Timothy Johnson, an architect at the global design firm NBBJ, said the decision by the 25-member height committee had more “tense moments” than usual, given the skyscraper’s importance as a patriotic symbol.

“I was here on 9/11. I saw the buildings come down,” he said.

Over the past few months, the council had hinted that it might be open to changing its standards for measuring ultra-tall buildings, given a trend toward developers adding “vanity height” to towers with huge, decorative spires.

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