One World Trade Center may not get "America's tallest building" status

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 30: One World Trade Center, the central skyscraper at Ground Zero, stands under construction on January 30, 2012 in New York City. The price tag for One World Trade has recently been valued at $3.8 billion, which would make it the world's most expensive new office tower. Most of the cost overruns are due to the security measures being taken in the design of the building which sits on a site that has been bombed twice by terrorists. To offset the costs of One World Trade Center, which is being built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, higher bridge and tunnel tolls have been instated and there has been a reduction in spending on transportation infrastructure. The 1,776-foot skyscraper is expected to be completed at the end of 2013. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt

(CBS News) Many say part of the reason One World Trade Center was designed to be so tall was to make it a symbol of resilience and defiance, building America's tallest building in the face of a horrible tragedy.

A recent redesign, however, might take away its expected status as the tallest building in the country.

The 408-foot spire on top of the tower was supposed to have a fiberglass and steel enclosure called a radome around it, but a redesign has removed it, The New York Times reports. Without it, the spire may be regarded as more of a simple antenna, which means the tower technically would no longer be considered to soar to the symbolic height of 1,776 feet.

"We count spires toward the height, if it's part of the architecture, it it's part of the actual design of the building, we count it toward the height," Kevin Brass, spokesperson for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a private body that serves as a worldwide arbiter of building heights, told WCBS 880. "But antennas, or any other apparatus that are simply put on top of a building, we do not count toward the height."

If the official height is determined to be 1,368 feet instead of 1,776 feet, the Willis Tower in Chicago will maintain its status as America's tallest building. In fact, One World Trade Center wouldn't even be the second tallest, coming in behind the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, which soars to 1,389 feet.

The Council is waiting until the building is complete to make its final decision, but things don't seem to be leaning toward the antenna being counted without the decorative shell.

(At left, watch a time lapse of the construction on One World Trade Center.)

"This definitely raises questions," Brass said in a statement on Wednesday. "The cladding was an integral part of the design and made the extension part of the permanent look and feel of the building."

Chief Architect David Childs told the New York Times he was disappointed in the co-developers' decision to remove the radome.

"Eliminating this integral part of the building's design and leaving an exposed antenna and equipment is unfortunate. We stand ready to work with the port on an alternate design that will still mark the 1 World Trade Center's place in New York City's skyline," Childs said.

Douglas Durst, the chairman of the Durst Organization, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are developing the building. Durst himself said in a statement that the $20 million in savings from eliminating the radome was not the main reason for the redesign.

"There was no real method to maintain or repair the radome," Durst told the Times.

Durst described the operation that would be required to repair ice or wind damage to the structure a quarter-mile in the sky as "mission impossible."