1 World Trade Center: Is it the tallest in the Americas — and does that even MATTER?

Posted at 7:04 PM, May 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-10 19:13:09-04

With the crown of its spire put in place Friday morning, One World Trade Center officially became the tallest building in the Americas.

Or did it?

The answer lies in the judgment of an organization that determines the heights of buildings worldwide.  However, its decision on the size of the Lower Manhattan building raises the issue of how important such designations are.

1 wtc

Is One World Trade Center the tallest building in the Americas …

As the arrow-shaped crown was lifted from a rooftop platform to its place atop the 408-foot spire, cheers and applause erupted from a gathering of about 100 construction workers and officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  The former had been working on the structure for the past seven years.  The latter owns and operates the World Trade Center site.

“It’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere,” said Scott Rechler, vice president of the Port Authority.  In the crown, he said, will “be a beacon of hope.”

Willis Tower

…or is it still the Willis Tower (formerly Sears) in Chicago?

He was referring to a bank of LED lights that were built into the cone-shaped crown of the structure.  The lights will be visible from as far away as Central New Jersey and the middle of Long Island.

However, claims of height superiority for the structure may be premature.  “When the building is occupied,” said Timothy Johnson, chairman of the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, “we’ll review designs” to see if 1WTC qualifies as the tallest building in the Americas.

“But for now, the jury is out,”  Johnson told PIX11 News.

The head of the council that makes official designations of building heights said that the rules of his organization dictate that it can’t make a determination of the building’s height until the buildings interior, as well as its exterior, is completed.  One World Trade is expected to open to its tenants in 2014.

Carol Willis

Carol Willis, founder of the Skyscraper Museum, says something is more important than the trade center’s height.

Its developers claim that the height of the building is a symbolic 1,776 feet.  If it’s determined that the 40-storyy spire atop the structure cannot be factored into the building’s official height, One World Trade will be shorter than Chicago’s Willis Tower, which is currently the tallest building in the Americas.

But whether or not One World Trade is designated as the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, the director of the Skyscraper Museum said that what is more important is the building having finally reached its full height.

“It’s the vision of the tower that we all see,” said Carol Willis, who also founded the Skyscraper Museum 16 years ago.  She told PIX11 News that the building’s design, and its place in the skyline as a whole bear much more importance “than as a measuring stick.”