Whether poetic, patriotic or pathetic, Daniel Liebeskind’s plan to render the height of 1 World Trade Center at 1,776 feet—a nod to our nation’s declaration of independence—was one of the most remarked upon pieces of his plan for the project. In fact, after Skidmore Owings & Merrill took over the design from Mr. Liebeskind, who is now merely the master planner, about the only element of his design that remained at 1 World Trade was that the top of the tower would reach 1,362, the same as the original towers, and it would have a spire climbing further to that symbolic height of 1,776 feet.
It turns out the tower will be even taller, and we have Mother Nature to thank for that.
A diagram for the 400-foot aerial appendage appeared in Architectural Record last week, and it showed an eight-foot protrusion atop the antenna. According to a source working at the site, it is a lightning rod. “There is a sense a lighting strike could be huge, so we have to protect against that,” this person said. Indeed, lightning has been an issue for decades at the Empire State Building.
An eagle-eyed contributor at the Skyscraper Page noted that this could actually push the tower to 1,787 feet, if measured from the north side of the building. For the history buffs, that would be an equally or even more significant historical date: the creation of the U.S. Constitution. But our source said that would likely not be the case for two reasons.
First, the height of the tower is being measured from the midway point of the ground floor, not one side or the other. This was the point chosen by the designers because “we had to pick something,” the source said, not only to get the building built but for the purposes of having it measured by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, which is the official arbiter of building heights worldwide. That means the new height would only be 1,784 feet. Second, and more importantly, the lightning rod has not even been designed yet. It could be two feet tall or eleven feet, one rod or a dozen.
Still, according to our source, even from a bird’s eye view, the lightning rod (or rods) would be all but imperceptible, lost in the scale of the spire and likely obscured by the flashing of an FAA-mandated warning light. “The sense is those things are so fine, you don’t even perceive them,” the source said.
As for that FAA beacon, it will be perched at the very top of the antenna proper—at a height of 1,776 feet. Call it the Beacon of Independence.