World Trade Center, then the world's tallest building, opens in New York City

World Trade Center, then the world's tallest building, opens in New York City

The “Twin Towers” of the World Trade Center officially open in New York City. The buildings replaced the Empire State Building as the world’s tallest building. Though they would only hold that title for a year, they remained a dominant feature of the city’s skyline and were recognizable the world over long before they were destroyed in a terrorist attack in 2001.

Planning, designing and clearing space for the World Trade Center took over a decade. The New York State Legislature originally approved the idea in 1943, but concrete plans did not materialize until the 1960s. The deal that created the new complex, of which the Twin Towers would be the centerpiece, also included the creation of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation, or PATH, to operate the trains which entered Manhattan from New Jersey on what was to become the grounds of the WTC. Architect Minoru Yamasaki drew inspiration from Arabic architecture for the towers’ design. In order to efficiently move people up and down the 110-story towers, Yamasaki and his team developed the concept of express elevators—based on the New York City Subway’s system of express and local trains—that traveled directly to “sky lobbies” on the 44 and 78 floor, from which “local” elevators ran to neighboring floors. The first tenants moved into the North Tower in December of 1970, with the official opening of both buildings taking place over two years later.

The towers’ construction ended the Empire State Building’s 41-year run as the tallest building in the world. They were replaced by Chicago’s Sears Tower the following year, an indication of the rising trend of supertall construction. The World Trade Center dramatically altered the New York skyline and the cityscape of Lower Manhattan. As such, they were often used as a shorthand for the area in visual media, and were frequently included in establishing shots of films set in New York. Though most of the World Trade Center was occupied by office space, the Top of the World Observation Deck on the South Tower became a popular tourist destination, as did the North Tower’s Windows on the World restaurant, which featured its own wine school.

The towers were first targeted by terrorists in 1993, when a bomb exploded in the garage under the North Tower, killing six and injuring over 1,000. The Twin Towers were destroyed, and were the site of the vast majorities of the casualties, on September 11, 2001, a final chapter that has since overshadowed the rest of the World Trade Center’s story. The building that replaced them, One World Trade Center, was completed in 2014 and is currently the seventh-tallest building in the world.

READ MORE: How the Design of the World Trade Center Claimed Lives on 9/11


History

Only one structure in world history – the Eiffel Tower – had achieved the height of 1,000 feet/ 300 meters before 1929, when the Chrysler Building reached its spire to 1,046 feet and 1930 when the Empire State stretched to 1,250 ft., our determinant of supertall.

At the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle engineer Gustave Eiffel constructed the then-controversial, but now beloved wrought-iron tower as an income-producing tourist attraction and a demonstration of France’s technological progress. At 300 meters it was almost twice the height of the tallest structures of any era – the ancient Egyptian pyramids, the tallest cathedral spire of Europe, or the tallest in the world in 1884, the 555-foot tall Washington Monument – all of which were built of masonry.

The history of building height is most often told as a story about the competition for the world’s tallest structure. The title was taken from France by American skyscrapers in the mid-twentieth century, then by Malaysia, Taiwan, and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where it still resides in the 828 meter Burj Khalifa, an extraordinary structure more than two Empire State Buildings tall.

The exhibition SUPERTALL! 2020 does not emphasize the issue of “tallest,” and especially not in the sense of judging parts of the building to count or how different measures reorder the ranking of structures. That is the province of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), which maintains an exemplary online database in their Skyscraper Center (link) and vets the various official measurements of vertical height and lists of the world’s tallest buildings.


Why Doesn’t New York Construct the World’s Tallest Building Anymore?

At the end of the Roaring Twenties, New York City witnessed a three-way race for the world’s tallest building. First was the Bank of Manhattan Building, at 40 Wall Street, which topped out at 927 feet (283 meters, 70 stories) in November 1929 and officially opened in May 1930. Next came the Chrysler Building (1,046 feet 319 meters, 77 stories), whose final height was riveted into place concurrently with the Bank of Manhattan but was not formally revealed until its rival was finished.

Finally was the granddaddy of them all, the Empire State Building. When its construction was announced in August 1929, it was planned to be 1,000 feet (305 meters, 80 stories) tall. However, after the Chrysler Building was completed in December of that year, five more floors and a 185-foot (56-meter) mooring mast were added. The building topped out in March 1931 at 1,250 feet (381 meters, 102 stories) and officially opened on May 1, 1931, with President Hoover ceremonially illuminating the lobby from Washington D.C.

Out of Gotham

Four decades later, in December 1970, when the north tower of the Twin Towers topped out at 1,368 feet (417 meters, 94 stories), the record was broken once again (both towers officially opened on April 4, 1973). The world’s tallest building then moved to Chicago when the Sears (Willis) Tower topped out at 1,450 feet (442 meters, 110 floors) in May 1973. After that to Kuala Lumpur with the Petronas Towers (1,230 feet, 452 meters, 88 stories) in 1998. Then the Taipei 101 in 2004 (1671 feet, 509 meters, 101 stories). And most recently, in Dubai in 2010, with the Burj Khalifa (2,217 feet, 828 meters, 163 floors).

It is clear that New York has bowed out of the record-breaking game—the very game that it initiated in the 19 th century. Between 1875 and 1931, New York City developers beat each other for the world’s tallest skyscraper ten times. What drove the city to build so many record-breakers in the first place, and why did it stop competing?

The Bricks of Ego?

If you ask a random person on the street why New York built so many record-breakers, the typical answer is bound to be “ego.” Ever since societies settled down, titans have built monumental structures. The pharaohs showed off with pyramids, kings with grand palaces, and religions with houses of worship. It thus follows that mega-wealthy business tycoons would show off their wealth by building monuments to themselves or their companies. But in truth, this is a gross oversimplification. Certainly, today’s New York builders have just as large egos as the old days, and if ego were the main driver, they would still be competitive in the height race.

But the fundamental reason that New York kept outdoing itself was that the underlying economics of going tall was so favorable. The tallest of the tall represented the “peak” of the height distribution. Skyscrapers were built to accommodate the city’s rapid growth. Land values were rising while engineering and construction technology were improving—these two factors, more than anything, explain the height races.

A Vision of the Future? A potential design for a 1.1 kilometer tower in Midtown Manhattan, if New York should get back into building the world’s tallest skyscraper. Rendering by Brenna Fransen and Jihoon Kim.

The Bricks of Business

If the developer was a national corporation, it would build tall to house its employees and to have an icon of its success. However, most of these companies did not use all the floors many were rented out to smaller firms. In this way, the corporation received a return on its investment in addition to headquarters.

For the speculative developer, the goal was to fill the building with as many companies as possible that was relatively easy in the central business districts, which were bubbling with firms eager to rent in the newest, most convenient accommodations. Without the nickels of the thousands of small white-collar businesses, there would have been no space race.

For some builders, however, merely being tall was not enough. Having the tallest was important—either for ego, advertisement, or some combination of both. This was accomplished usually in one of two ways (or both). The first was to increase the profit-maximizing height by erecting a narrow tower on top. While adding the tower was not cheap, it tended to rent for higher rates given the small, sun-filled spaces with amazing views.

Vanity Height

The other strategy was to add a decorative element that had an architectural appeal but was not otherwise occupiable (the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat calls this Vanity Height). The most common was a spire, which could also be used to house machinery and equipment, thus rendering it useful, if not income producing.

The critical point here is that the favorable economics would get a building to a certain profit-maximizing height with some extra cash, the developer could extend it into the record-breaking zone and still generate a profit. And profitable they were—that is why there were so many of them.

A Brief History of the Record-breakers

Before the Great Depression, there were three generations of record-breakers. Generation I encompassed the last quarter of the 19 th century, with a series of buildings that were incrementally taller than what was being built at the time. To break the height barrier, they each added domes or small towers. All of them were built in Lower Manhattan along Broadway or Newspaper Row, by City Hall.

This generation includes the Tribune Building (1875, 260 feet, 79 meters, 9 or 10 stories), the World (Pulitzer) Building (1890, 308 feet, 94 meters, 18 stories), the Manhattan Life Insurance Building (1892, 348 feet, 106 meters, 18 stories), and the Park Row Building (1899, 391 feet, 119 meters, 30 stories)

The Tribune and World Buildings were constructed by newspaper publishers to house their operations and to project the power of their newspapers and American journalism in general. The Manhattan Life Building was constructed as a headquarters. The company was also participating in an insurance company height race, started by the Equitable Life Assurance Society and the New York Life Insurance Company, whose buildings were both completed in 1870. The Park Row Building was a speculative venture. It was initiated by prominent New York lawyer and politician, William Mills Ivins, but subsequently led by financier August Belmont. The building housed the offices of his Interborough Rapid Transit company, which built the city’s first subway line.

Left to Right: World (Pulitzer) Building (1890), Tribune Building (1875), Manhattan Life Building (1894), Park Row Building (1899).

The Next Generation

Generation II was the twentieth century before World War I. This crop included the Singer Building (1908, 674 feet, 205 meters, 41 stories), the Metropolitan Life Tower (1909, 700 feet, 210 meters, 50 stories), and the Woolworth Building (1913, 792 feet, 241 meters, 55 stories). These represented the flowering of all-steel skeletal frames. They were each built by large corporations seeking to house their businesses and produce an icon for their companies.

The Singer Building was built for the Singer Sewing Machine Company and was essentially a 14-story office building with a super-thin, goosenecked 27-story tower plunked down on its mansard roof. The MetLife Building was a pure tower modeled after the St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice. The Woolworth Building, built by retail store magnate, F. W. Woolworth, was a 30-story office building with a 25-story tower.

Generation III

Generation III was the three Deco Giants: The Bank of Manhattan, the Chrysler, and the Empire State Buildings. They were each built after the implementation of the city’s 1916 zoning codes, which mandated that buildings be set back from the street as they rose higher, thus promoting the wedding cake architectural style. A builder could erect a tower as high as he wanted if the footprint were less than 25% of the lot. Given the large lots of these three projects, the tower portions were economically viable.

Left to Right: Singer Tower (1908), MetLife Tower (1909), Woolworth Building (1913).

The Bank of Manhattan building, at 40 Wall Street, was conceived as a speculative project by financier George Ohrstrom. He convinced the Bank of Manhattan to rent 100,000 square feet (9,290 m 2 ) for its headquarters. In contrast, Walter Chrysler built the Chrysler Building on his own account. However, in 1928, when he initiated the project, the Chrysler Motor Corp. was only three years old in this sense, the line between Chrysler, the man, and Chrysler, the company, was very thin. Finally, the Empire State Building was erected as a speculative venture by former New York State Governor Al Smith and financier and former General Motors executive John J. Raskob. They initiated the project in the late summer of 1929 as Manhattan rents continued to skyrocket.

The Twin Towers

After the completion of these “three amigos,” 15 years of depression and war followed. When New York returned to the business of business, the economics of recording-breaking buildings had changed. Industrial cities like Gotham saw their employment bases shrink due to the rise of sunbelt cities and a drop in the quality of life. New York was still skyscraper central. However, construction cost inflation and flat office rents, combined with a more restrictive zoning regime (initiated in 1961), meant that the economics of private-sector record-breakers no longer worked.

The World Trade Center was a government project, built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) with the aid of New York State and New York City. It was conceived during the 1960s when governments around the U.S. were promoting slum clearance and urban renewal projects. The World Trade Center, with 10 million square feet of office space over 16 acres, was viewed as a means to improve the fortunes of lower Manhattan, which had fallen on hard times. The Twin Towers would never have been built by private developers however, they proved profitable over time.

Left to Right: Bank of Manhattan Building (1930), Chrysler Building (1930), Empire State Building (1931).

An Economic Analysis of the Record-breakers

A rational developer goes tall when the expectation is that the high cost will be rewarded with a large income. Developers typically take the current rents as the starting point. As the potential income relative to costs rises, it motivates developers to add extra height. To investigate the degree to which the record-breakers in New York were tied to the economic fundamentals and not loosely moored to them because of raging egos, I turned to the historical data.

To compare apples to apples and keep the analysis relatively simple, we can look at the average expected annual rent per square foot for the building at the time of opening relative to the per-square-foot costs to erect each building (including land costs). We can call this the Benefit-to-Cost Ratio. (Details on data, sources, and analysis are here.) If the Benefit-to-Cost Ratio for these buildings are high, it suggests a strong economic basis for these buildings if not, it suggests emotions dominate the decision-making process.

Based on a review of this data, the conclusion is that before World War II, the record-breaking buildings were economically justified. In fact, the average ratio of rents to construction costs was nearly 23% (with none lower than 18%). This translated into an average estimated return on investment (ROI) of 8.0%, which is quite respectable. This is not to say that every building went on to earn very high profits or that the developers’ expectations were fully realized but rather, it is to say that these projects all had a strong economic logic and that ego was second to economics.

This finding also includes the Empire State Building, which was green-lighted in the summer of 1929 and whose construction ran through 1930, when the New York real estate market was still chugging along. At the end of 1930, when the market took a deep dive, the structure was almost finished and had rental contracts on its books. Nearly every building in New York suffered tremendously in 1931. The only reason the Empire State Building was ridiculed so resoundingly was because of its visibility.

The Profits of Going Tall. Each skyscraper in the table broke the record for the world’s tallest skyscraper. For each one, total costs are construction and land costs combined. The income projections are based on the average square-foot rents that developers believed they could receive when their buildings opened. Note that data were not obtained for the Tribune Building (1875) and the MetLife Tower (1909). The Benefit-to-Cost Ratio is the average expected rent per square foot divided by the total cost per square foot of gross building area. ROI is the estimated return on investment, which is the first year’s estimated net operating income divided by the total cost of the structure (and does not include financing costs). For more details on sources and calculations see here.

Office Towers Today

How do the economics of office towers for Manhattan compare today? To answer this, I collected information on New York’s newest office skyscraper—One Vanderbilt (1,401 feet, 427 meters, 65 stories)—completed this year. While it is the city’s fourth-tallest building (and second-tallest office building), it is quite stubby when compared to the 828-meter Burj Khalifa. Around the globe, it is the 26 th tallest skyscraper.

The total project cost for land and building (and upgrades to local infrastructure) came in around $3.3 billion. Using the expected figure of average office rents of $178 per square foot (ignoring the COVID-19 pandemic) gives a Benefit-to-Cost Ratio of 9.4% (and an estimated ROI of 4%), half of the average from the pre-World War II period. In other words, going super-supertall today in the office sector does not appear all that profitable.

What Will it Take for New York to Build the World’s Tallest Building?

What kind of economics would incentivize the private sector to build the next world’s tallest tower in New York City? For the sake of comparison, let’s say that the building will be a centrally located office tower constructed within current zoning allowances. Using One Vanderbilt’s construction costs as a benchmark, let’s assume that the project can be built for $2,000 per square foot, including both land and construction costs.

Further, let’s assume that the Benefit-to-Cost Ratio has to be at least 20% to make a record-breaking building work, just like in the old days. Thist would mean that office rents would have to be more than double what was estimated for One Vanderbilt, given the costs. Rents would have to average around $400 per square for a 21 st -century version of the Empire State or Woolworth Building to pay. Something unlikely to happen any time soon, if ever.

The Bricks of Ambition

Merely talking about New York constructing the next world’s tallest building, is of course, controversial. Tall buildings had their detractors a century ago, and NIMBYists do what they can to stop them today. But it’s important to understand that in the long sweep of New York’s history, economic forces have driven the rise and growth of its skyline. This is not to say that every single project had a rock-solid economic foundation or that its impacts were purely benign, but it is to say that New York became the world’s greatest metropolis because it was able to build up to accommodate the growth of its commerce and population.

Someday, if the economics should favor a motivated developer to push her building one kilometer or higher into the sky, I say we should celebrate it. New York was, is, and will always be, a city of strivers. The skyline was built from the bricks of ambition, and without it, New York would not be New York.


Now Streaming

Mr. Tornado

Mr. Tornado is the remarkable story of the man whose groundbreaking work in research and applied science saved thousands of lives and helped Americans prepare for and respond to dangerous weather phenomena.

The Polio Crusade

The story of the polio crusade pays tribute to a time when Americans banded together to conquer a terrible disease. The medical breakthrough saved countless lives and had a pervasive impact on American philanthropy that continues to be felt today.

American Oz

Explore the life and times of L. Frank Baum, creator of the beloved The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.


New World Trade Center Tops Willis Tower As Tallest In U.S.

The Willis Tower (left) lost its title as tallest building in the U.S. to the new 1 World Trade Center tower in New York City (right), after the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat determined the WTC spire is a permanent part of the building. (Credit: STR/AFP/Allan Tannenbaum-Pool/Getty Images)

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Willis Tower on Tuesday lost the title of the tallest building in the United States to the new World Trade center in New York.

Technically, the torch won’t be passed until next year when 1 World Trade Center is fully completed. However, the “projection” was officially issued on Tuesday.

A committee of architects recognized as the arbiters on world building heights had to decide whether a design change affecting new World Trade Center’s 408-foot needle disqualified it from being counted.

But there was more than bragging rights at stake 1 World Trade Center stands as a monument to those killed in the terrorist attacks.

“The key word here, the key word is permanence,” said committee member Anthony Wood said.

In others word, a spire is forever. Antennas can be moved–or made higher or shorter.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn’t particularly agree with the ruling.

“If it looks like an antenna, acts like an antenna, then guess what? It is an antenna,” Emanuel said after the decision.

“You can see I’m competitive. Willis has the best view not from an antenna. If you want to climb an antenna to see the view, go ahead.”

The 1,776 foot height was designed to correspond with the year the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. Without the needle, the building measures 1,368 feet. The Willis stands at 1,450 feet. Its broadcast antennas are not counted.

The decision was made by an organization based in Chicago, whose cultural and architectural history is embodied by the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower

The question over 1 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 1 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.

The Willis has a central place in Chicago’s history, speaking to the city’s own tradition of recovering from adversity ever since the 1871 Great Fire and its history of creating architectural marvels, said Peter Alter, an archivist at the Chicago History Museum.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, headquartered in Chicago, designed the Willis, which opened as Sears Tower in 1973 and remained the tallest building in the world until 1996 when the council ruled that the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, had knocked it from the top spot.

And the Willis can still claim to get visitors up higher: The highest occupied floor in the 1,450-foot (not including antenna height), 110-story Willis Tower is still higher up than that of the 104-story 1 World Trade Center.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


One World Trade Center Tops Empire State Building As Tallest: History Of The Skyscraper Race In New York City [PHOTOS]

The One World Trade Center and Manhattan skyline is seen from New Jersey April 29, 2012. A steel column will be hoisted atop the One World Trade Center on Monday, making it New York's tallest building, local media reported. The first column of the 100th floor of One World Trade Center will bring the tower to a height of 1,271 feet (387 meters), making it 21 feet (6 meters) higher than the Empire State Building, media said. Photo: REUTERS/Eduardo Muno

One World Trade Center is officially the tallest building in New York City. It claimed the title on Monday afternoon when it topped the 1,250 feet of the Empire State Building. But One World Trade Center isn't done yet and when it is complete, NYC's biggest skyscraper will stand at 1,776 feet, including its 408-foot antenna.

The date of completion is set for 2013. Then it will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the third-tallest building in the world after the United Arab Emirates' Burj Khalifa and Saudi Arabia's Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel.

Located at Ground Zero, just north of where the Twin Towers once stood, the so-called Freedom Tower will boast 104 floors and about three million square feet of office space. It is being built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and has a reported price tag of more than $3.8 billion.

Plans to build a new structure came after the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. One World Trade Center's construction began in 2006.

The race for the tallest building began at the start of the 20 th century. Early skyscrapers in Manhattan such Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower (700 feet, 50 stories), the Woolworth Building (792 feet, 60 stories) and the Bank of Manhattan (927 feet, 71 stories) marveled many. The Woolworth Building was the world's tallest from 1913 to 1930.

The Chrysler Building also briefly held the title of world's tallest in 1930 at 1046 feet, 77 stories. However, it quickly lost the top spot to the Empire State Building, which was built in 1930 to 1931 and designed by the firm of Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon.

For more than 40 years the Empire State Building and its 102 stories held the crown among the tallest skyscrapers. But in 1972 its reign as the world, and the city's, tallest came to an end when its height was surpassed by the World Trade Center, which stood at 1,368 feet and had 110 stories.

When a terrorist attack downed the World Trade Center in 2001, the Empire State Building reclaimed that title of New York City's tallest one more.


Is World Trade Center tallest building in U.S.? Maybe not

CHICAGO -- 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 (541 metres) and become the tallest building in the country. Or has it?

A committee of architects recognized as the arbiters on world building heights was meeting Friday to decide whether a design change affecting the skyscraper's 408-foot (124-meter) needle disqualifies it from being counted. Disqualification would deny the tower the title as the nation's tallest.

But there's more than bragging rights at stake 1 World Trade Center stands as a monument to those killed in the terrorist attacks, and the ruling could dim the echo of America's founding year in the structure's height. Without the needle, the building measures 1,368 feet (417 metres), a number that also holds symbolic weight as the height of the original World Trade Center.

What's more, the decision is being made by an organization based in Chicago, whose cultural and architectural history is embodied by the Willis -- formerly Sears -- Tower that would be knocked into second place by a vote in favour of the New York structure.

"Most of the time these decisions are not so controversial," said Daniel Safarik, an architect and spokesman for the non-profit Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. The 30 members of its Height Committee are meeting to render a judgment behind closed doors in Chicago, where the world's first skyscraper appeared in 1884.

The committee, comprising industry professionals from all over the world, will announce its decision next week.

The question over 1 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 esthetic design count broadcast antennas that can be added and removed do not.

The designers of 1 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, but it will also be topped with an LED beacon that will fire out a horizontal blaze of light visible from up to 50 miles (80 kilometres) away on a clear night -- a feature that has been described as a crowning beacon of hope.

The developers tested the lights Friday night, and hundreds of red, white and blue LED modules illuminated lower Manhattan.

Safarik said the committee could consider amending its height criteria -- a move with much broader implications that could force a reshuffle in the rankings of the tallest buildings in the world.

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 1 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."

"We take our hats off to them out here in Chicago and the Midwest," said Robert Wislow, chairman and chief executive of U.S. Equities, the firm that manages the Willis Tower. "And we welcome the building to the elite club of the tallest buildings in the world. Nobody's looking at this like a competition."

Still, the Willis has a central place in Chicago's history, speaking to the city's own tradition of recovering from adversity ever since the 1871 Great Fire and its history of creating architectural marvels, said Peter Alter, an archivist at the Chicago History Museum.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, headquartered in Chicago, also designed the Willis. Then known as the Sears Tower, it was completed in 1973 and remained the tallest building in the world until 1996 when the council ruled that the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, had knocked it from the top spot.

The Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, is currently world's tallest building, standing 2,722 feet (830 metres).

And the Willis can still claim to get visitors up higher: The highest occupied floor in the 1,450-foot (442-meter) (not including antenna height), 110-story Willis Tower is still higher up than that of the 104-story 1 World Trade Center. In a sign of just how in dispute building measurements can be, the council says the Willis has 108 floors.

At the Willis' 103rd floor, thrill-seekers can step out into one of the glass boxes known as The Ledge that extend outside the building's steel frame and look straight down 1,353 feet (412 metres).


On November 12th, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (yes, there really is such a body) ruled (yes, they really did rule) that the new One World Trade Center is officially the tallest building in the country. You can read all about it on the Council’s web site – click here – but the main point of contention addressed by the Council’s Height Committee (yes, there really is…) had to do with the enormous mast at the tower’s top, which, by adding 408 feet, raises the building’s height to a symbolic 1776 feet, and makes it taller than Chicago’s Willis Tower (known better by most of us as the Sears Tower) — which had, in turn, long ago snatched the title of World’s Tallest Building from the first World Trade Center. Of course, as the World’s Tallest title has since moved off shore, the competition is merely for the U.S. title. But still, it’s nice to have it back in New York, where it belongs. (To understand why, read the history of “world’s tallest buildings” by clicking here.)

One of the major issues up for discussion by the HC of the CTBUH was whether that 408-foot-tall mast qualified as part of the building. As reported in a New York Times article, the New York tower “was deemed taller [than the Willis/Sears Tower] even though it has six fewer floors and its roof is more than 100 feet lower than the top side of the Willis Tower.” The two long masts on the Chicago building “are considered antennas, which the council does not count.” So why should the 408-foot mast in New York count? Because it is called, by contrast, “a spire,” and its developers “insisted it was a critical and permanent element of the architects’ overall design.” (Rahm Emmanuel, Chicago’s mayor, was not happy with this line of thinking.)

If that description seems like a distinction without a difference, consider the Empire State Building. (Remember the Empire State Building?) It has *both* a spire *and* an antenna. When it took the title of World’s Tallest from the Chrysler Building, it did so by adding a dirigible mooring mast at the top – and though dirigibles never moored there, the mast raised the ESB’s height to 1250 feet, well beyond Chrysler’s 1046 feet – which was apparently the point. But that’s not the top of the building as we see it today – instead, atop the dirigible mooring mast rises an enormous television antenna, which makes the tower’s silhouette much slenderer than the original. Yet nobody uses that antenna in calculating the building’s height – just the top of the dirigible mast.

What’s perhaps most remarkable is that these arguments have been going on since the race to the top began with the Singer Tower shortly after the turn of the last century. When the 700-foot-tall Metropolitan Life Tower took the title in 1908, a few years after Singer had claimed it, the Singer Company countered that though its building’s height was just 612 feet “from the sidewalk to the base of the flagstaff,” it could actually be considered 672 feet “to the top of its flagstaff,” and, in fact, when measured from its foundations, the building rose to 762 feet.

Flagstaffs, foundations, antennas, dirigible mooring masts – these were all arguments put forward by grown-ups they seemed silly then, and they seem silly now. And yet, somehow, we care. The Council’s ruling has been reported in newspapers around the world. And here we are, talking about it…..


Most Read

"Developers are all trying to edge out their competition in the race for high-net-worth buyers," said Robin Schneiderman of Halstead Property Development Marketing.

Barnett's plan would indeed help cement the reputation of W. 57th St. as Billionaires' Row. Barnett has already built One57, a luxury tower between Sixth and Seventh Aves., and the new property a block away is expected to draw wealthy investors from around the globe.

The bottom of the building aims to be as impressive as the top, with a seven-floor Nordstrom department store.

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, a firm associated with some of the world's tallest buildings, is reportedly involved in Barnett's project. The firm is also designing what will be the world's tallest building, the 3,281-foot-tall Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The 57th St. building is one in a string of giant structures planned just south of Central Park. Park advocates have long been opposed to the spate of new towers, saying that it will cause long shadows over the park.


1 World Trade Center named as tallest US building

CHICAGO (AP) — The new World Trade Center tower in New York replaced Chicago's Willis Tower as the nation's tallest building when an international panel of architects announced Tuesday that the needle atop the skyscraper can be counted when measuring the structure's height.

The Height Committee of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat said the needle is not an antenna but a spire, and thus is a permanent part of the building.

The needle, measuring 408 feet tall, was more than enough to confirm Chicago is the Second City when it comes to tall buildings.

With the needle, 1 World Trade Center is a symbolically important 1,776 feet tall. Without it, the building would have been only 1,368 feet tall — well short of the 1,451-foot Willis Tower.

At stake was more than just bragging rights in two cities that feast on superlatives and the tourist dollars that might follow: 1 World Trade Center stands as a monument to those killed in the 9/11 attacks, and its architects had sought to capture the echo of America's founding year in the structure's height.

"The committee was well aware of the gravity of the situation," Antony Wood, the council's executive director, said during a news conference in Chicago.

The building's 1,368 feet height without the needle also holds symbolism it is the height of the original World Trade Center.

The Height Committee comprises 30 industry professionals from all over the world and is widely recognized as the final arbiter of official building heights around the world. They conferred behind closed doors last week in Chicago, where the world's first skyscraper appeared in 1884.

The new World Trade Center tower remains under construction and is expected to open next year.

The designers originally 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 was whether the mast was primarily just a broadcast antenna.

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.

Daniel Safarik, an architect and spokesman for the nonprofit council, said it might consider amending its height criteria. Such a move would have much broader implications that could force a reshuffle in the rankings of the tallest buildings in the world.


Watch the video: HΠΑ: Ζωή και πάλι στο σημείο μηδέν