The fate of the World Trade Center, having been debated and arbitrated by every constituency in town, now rests with a panel of architects and engineers in Chicago. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is the international arbiter of skyscrapers the world over. All skyscrapers are not created equal, and it is up to the Council to decide exactly how tall they all are.
The problem at 1 World Trade Center, as has been raging across front pages all week, is that the Durst Organization, the august real estate family and minority partner in the city’s newly christened tallest structure, has convinced the Port Authority to forgo a radome, a white fiberglass sheath that was to have encased the 408-foot mast atop the 1,368-foot tower. The mast takes the tower from the symbolic height of the original towers to the perhaps too symbolic height of 1,776 feet, first envisioned by Daniel Libeskind a decade ago.
The problem is that the council does not recognize antennae, flagpoles, signage or other superfluous structures as contributing to the height of the building. That is why the Willis Tower, 1,451 feet, ranks eighth tallest in the world, even though two broadcasting arrays bring its total height to 1,729 feet, the second tallest in the world behind the Burj Khalifa.
This seems absolutely backwards—why encourage “spires,” useless poles with a glimmer of design intent, while forgoing actual, functional structures like antenna and signage. Whatever happened to form follows function?