Chicago became the Second City in more than one way Tuesday: One World Trade Center is officially America's tallest building, according to an international panel of architects. Before any Chicago die-hards accuses the panel of being cityist (the rivalry doth run deep,) the decision itself was made in Chicago (#justsayin.) Chicago's Willis Tower had held the title as America's Tallest since its construction... until Tuesday, when the Height Committee Of The Council On Tall Buildings And Urban Habitat decided otherwise.
The decision came after much deliberation about whether a last-minute design change with the needle at the top of the new World Trade Center building meant that it counted as part of the WTC's height. The needle serves as a communications platform and an LED beacon that can be seen from 50 miles away: Originally, it would have been disguised with decorative casing, but that was scrapped for a bare look. Official height arbitration criteria excludes broadcast antennas, which can usually be removed and therefore aren't part of the permanent structure of the building. Ultimately, the Height Committee decided that because it's a permanent feature of the WTC building, it's good to go.
But the height of One World Trade Center has a lot of symbolic importance that makes its designation that much more meaningful: Sans spire, the building stands at 1,368 feet — the height of the original WTC buildings. But with the spire, the building stands at 1,776 to reflect the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.
In the meantime, One World Trade Center's website has bypassed the whole "America's Tallest" thing, and is now billing itself as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. (It ain't modest.)
The needle issue was hotly debated amongst the 30 industry professionals on the Height Committee panel: Daniel Safarik, spokesman, said that the panel might still consider amending its height criteria. If the Committee were to decide that spires like the WTC's don't count, there be a reshuffling of the world's-tallest rankings — and the Willis Tower would regain its number-one spot.
Soz, Chicago. At least the pizza's better there.