NEW YORK -- A panel of building experts on Tuesday anointed New York’s new World Trade Center tower the nation’s tallest skyscraper, accepting its spire as part of a design that makes it 1,776 feet high and that knocks Chicago’s Willis Tower out of the No. 1 spot.
The Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat made its much-anticipated decision public at news conferences in Chicago and in New York, where the announcement came at a building just two blocks from the World Trade Center.
"Our height committee reached consensus that in fact the building is 1,776 feet in height," council chairman Timothy Johnson said.
The decision fulfills the vision of the designers of the World Trade Center site to show that New York was not afraid of building an even higher structure in place of the one targeted by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. The 1,776-foot height was aimed at sending a message of patriotism and resilience.
Architect Rick Bell, the executive director of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said the new building, like the old, speaks to the national and international aspiration for height.
“Height matters. What people value in real estate is the view of the wide world,” Bell said. “There’s something special about being high up. The idea of being able to look down and see the big world – it’s celestial. There’s no other word for it.”
The council is a nonprofit organization founded in 1969 to monitor high-rise construction worldwide and to set criteria for what constitutes a skyscraper. In recent years, as designers have become more creative in their construction of the communications antennae that top new skyscrapers, the council has been called upon to determine whether those antennae should count toward a building’s overall height.
That was the issue at hand with the new building in lower Manhattan, One World Trade Center. It replaced the tower destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, which stood at 1,368 feet. Questions about the new building’s height were raised last year, after the architects changed the design to remove material that was to have enclosed the 408-foot spire protruding from the top.
"The design changed in a very public way, and that threw everything into question. It was no longer clearly a piece of the design and it seemed to have sort of been stripped down to the skeleton," Daniel Safarik, of the council, said in explaining what went into the group's deliberations.
Without the spire, the building is shorter than the Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, which became the United States’ highest skyscraper upon its completion in 1974.