Technically, the roof of the Willis Tower — better known by its former name, the Sears Tower — rises to 1,451 feet, and One World Trade Center stands only 1,335 feet high. But the Trade Center tower architects argued that the spire on the roof, which takes the structure to the symbolically significant height of 1,776 feet, should be counted as part of the building. The antennas on the Willis Tower are considered, well, just antennas and don't count toward height.
We're skeptical about the functional difference between the Chicago antennas and the New York spire — they're both up there helping in the transmission of broadcast signals — and we're really surprised to find out that there's a Council on Tall Buildings. But mostly we're thinking: Does size really matter (to anyone besides the tall council people and the architects and so on)? One World Trade Center, by the way, will be only the third-highest building in the world, dwarfed by structures in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that scrape the stratosphere. The Willis Tower will rank 10th behind buildings across the Middle East and Asia.
The race for a taller habitable tower seems like a vestige of the last century, when the Metropolitan Life Building, the Chrysler Building, the Woolworth Building, the
The developers of One World Trade Center point out that it is a model of sustainable design and safety. And all that technology is good to have. If we must compete in the urban landscape, how about making the goal "My carbon footprint is smaller than yours"? Not to brag about Los Angeles, but the most striking recent landmark here is Disney Hall, which has nothing to do with height and everything to do with an arresting use of shape and material.