Watch CBS News

New World Trade Center Tops Willis Tower As Tallest In U.S.

Willis Tower and 1 World Trade Center
The Willis Tower (left) lost its title as tallest building in the U.S. to the new 1 World Trade Center tower in New York City (right), after the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat determined the WTC spire is a permanent part of the building. (Credit: STR/AFP/Allan Tannenbaum-Pool/Getty Images)

UPDATE: 11/12/2013 12:05 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Willis Tower on Tuesday lost the title of the tallest building in the United States to the new World Trade center in New York.

Technically, the torch won't be passed until next year when 1 World Trade Center is fully completed. However, the "projection" was officially issued on Tuesday.

A committee of architects recognized as the arbiters on world building heights had to decide whether a design change affecting new World Trade Center's 408-foot needle disqualified it from being counted.

But there was more than bragging rights at stake; 1 World Trade Center stands as a monument to those killed in the terrorist attacks.

"The key word here, the key word is permanence," said committee member Anthony Wood said.

In others word, a spire is forever. Antennas can be moved--or made higher or shorter.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn't particularly agree with the ruling.

"If it looks like an antenna, acts like an antenna, then guess what? It is an antenna," Emanuel said after the decision.

"You can see I'm competitive. Willis has the best view not from an antenna. If you want to climb an antenna to see the view, go ahead."

The 1,776 foot height was designed to correspond with the year the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. Without the needle, the building measures 1,368 feet. The Willis stands at 1,450 feet. Its broadcast antennas are not counted.

Willis Tower No Longer Tallest Building In U.S.

The decision was made by an organization based in Chicago, whose cultural and architectural history is embodied by the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower

The question over 1 World Trade Center, which remains under construction and is expected to open next year, arose because of a change to the design of its tower-topping needle.

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.

The Willis has a central place in Chicago's history, speaking to the city's own tradition of recovering from adversity ever since the 1871 Great Fire and its history of creating architectural marvels, said Peter Alter, an archivist at the Chicago History Museum.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, headquartered in Chicago, designed the Willis, which opened as Sears Tower in 1973 and remained the tallest building in the world until 1996 when the council ruled that the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, had knocked it from the top spot.

And the Willis can still claim to get visitors up higher: The highest occupied floor in the 1,450-foot (not including antenna height), 110-story Willis Tower is still higher up than that of the 104-story 1 World Trade Center.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.