WTC Tower Is Tallest in the US, Panel Rules

Tuesday, Nov 12, 2013  |  Updated 1:27 PM EDT
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A panel has ruled that the World Trade Center tower is the tallest in the U.S., deciding that its needle should count toward the skyscraper's official height, giving it the symbolically significant measurement of 1,776 feet.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat announced Tuesday that the trade center's 408-foot spire should be included, making it taller than the 1,451-foot Willis Tower in Chicago. Without the spire, the trade center skyscraper would have been 1,368 feet.

The committee is recognized as the final arbiter of building heights around the world.

At stake was more than just bragging rights: 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 building's 1,368 feet height without the needle also holds symbolism; it is the height of the original trade center's north tower. The south tower was a few feet shorter.

The key decision was in the panel determining that the structure on top of the building is a spire, not a broadcast antenna, which has been the subject of debate in recent years.

The panel typically does not count an antenna in a building's height.

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.

The building is expected to open to tenants next year.

The Port Authority and the Durst Organization, co-developers of the site, and architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill said in a joint statement that the "iconic building represents the resilience of America" and the decision recognizes its "rightful place in history."

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