1 World Trade Center Deemed Tallest Building in America; Chicago’s Willis Tower Dethroned Despite Being Taller


Today, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat ruled that the ornamental spire atop 1 World Trade Center should count toward its total height, making it the “tallest” building in America. This means that the Willis Tower (née Sears Tower) has been demoted to second place in the American skyscraper height standings, despite the fact that its roof is 82 feet taller than 1 World Trade’s — and that its own antennas weren’t counted because they actually do something.

Here’s an idea: To celebrate, they should build a slide from the top of 1 World Trade Center to the top of the Willis Tower for revelers to slide down. But, wait, that wouldn’t work, as people would have to actually climb up the slide to reach the roof of the “shorter” Willis Tower.


No matter. Why don’t New Yorkers climb to the roof of 1 World Trade and wave down to Chicagoans on the Willis Tower’s roof in a taunting, celebratory gesture? Actually, that wouldn’t work, either — everyone on the Willis Tower would be obstructed by the eight full floors that rise above 1 World Trade Center.

One World Trade center is already an icon. It’s a beautiful, towering testament to the New York’s resilience and power to rebuild. Much has been made of its symbolic height to the tip of the spire — 1,776 feet — but even this is under scrutiny. The height is to be measured from the lowest “significant” entrance. 1WTC’s lowest entrance, located on Vesey Street, is actually 5 feet and 8 inches lower than the other entrances, making the height a not-so-symbolic 1,781 feet. This discrepancy was (successfully) argued against to the Council on the grounds that the Vesey Street entrance has a couple of steps you need to take in order to get to the main lobby, which doesn’t make it a “significant” entrance.

Any self-respecting New Yorker would readily admit that putting a swizzle stick on top of a building doesn’t make it taller. The Empire State Building, the city’s most famous and emblematic skyscraper, doesn’t count its antenna spire (it’s functional, like the Willis Tower’s). It stands proudly at 1,250 feet, period.

Skyscrapers should be shorthand for brute size and height, not rulebook small print and decorative, non-functioning roof sticks. If you want that, go to Toronto and hang out on the 1,815-foot CN Tower with their crack-smoking mayor.

Full Disclosure: The writer of this piece is originally from Chicago and na-na-na he can’t hear you.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s full report is on the next page…

CTBUH Affirms One World Trade Center Height