Architects rule 1 World Trade Center tallest building in US - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Architects rule 1 World Trade Center tallest building in US

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Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, in Chicago on March 12, 2008, left, and One World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 5, 2013 on the right.(AP) Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, in Chicago on March 12, 2008, left, and One World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 5, 2013 on the right.(AP)
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

A committee of world building heights experts announced Tuesday that a design change that affects the 408-foot needle on the new 1,776-foot World Trade Center tower does not disqualify it from being counted as the nation's tallest skyscraper.

The nonprofit Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat met to render a judgment behind closed doors in Chicago, where the world's first skyscraper appeared in 1884. Disqualification would have denied the World Trade Center the title as the nation's tallest.

It made the ruling public in a joint announcement in New York and Chicago.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel decried the decision.

"I would just say to all the experts gathered in one room: If it looks like an antenna, acts like an antenna, then guess what? It is an antenna," he told reporters.

The main issue before the council was whether the tower's height should be measured to the top of the needle, which also serves as a broadcast antenna, or whether it should be measured to the roof of the building, at 1,368 feet. 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. Without it, the question was 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 away on a clear night — a feature that has been described as a crowning beacon of hope.

"The design of One World Trade Center, as explained to us, reinforces its role as a symbol of resurgence on this important site," Antony Wood, the executive director of the council, said in a statement. "In particular, the spire which holds the beacon light, shining out at the symbolic height of 1,776 feet, is especially poignant -- echoing the similarly symbolic beacon atop the Statue of Liberty across the water."

Timothy Johnson, the council's chairman, said in a statement: "We were very satisfied with the detailed information presented by the team, in particular, that which affirmed that the structure on top of the building is meant as a permanent architectural feature, not a piece of functional-technical equipment."

1 World Trade Center stands as a monument to those killed in the terrorist attacks, and the ruling would have dimmed the echo of America's founding year in the structure's height. Without the needle, the building measures 1,368 feet, a number that also holds symbolic weight as the height of the original World Trade Center.

The decision was made by an organization based in Chicago, whose cultural and architectural history is embodied by the Willis — formerly Sears — Tower that is knocked into second place by a vote in favor of the New York structure.

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