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So Chicago Doesn't Have The Tallest Building In North America Anymore. Big Deal!

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 12, 2013 11:10PM

Photo credits: Andrew Burton/Getty Images (1 World Trade Center); Senor Codo (Willis Tower)

Congratulations, New York. You now have the tallest skyscraper in North America and it’s been a long time coming so we here in Chicago can understand if you want to crow about it for a little bit.

We understand there was some dispute over whether the 408-foot mast which looks like an antenna could be included in One World Trade Center’s overall height. Lucky the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats was on the case. They determined the mast was not an antenna and part of the spire. (Gothamist executive editor Jen Chung called the spire “really, really, really really ugly.”) The Council’s executive director Antony Wood said, "Even though the cladding was taken off the spire, you can still see that it is an architectural element. It is not just a plain steel mast from which to hang antenna or satellite dishes."

To be honest, we’re proud for you regarding the Council’s decision. After all, One World Trade Center is more than a skyscraper to some. Its 1,776-foot height is not only official when construction is completed next year. It’s symbolic as both the year the Founding fathers ratified the Declaration of Independence and as a message to people across the globe that America will persevere. We can remember visiting New York City a year after the attacks that brought down the original Twin Towers and still have the stench and sights of the giant hole in the ground burned in our mind. And we can remember the awe we felt participating in your Five Boro Bike Tour the past two years as we and over 40,000 other cyclists craned our necks to trace the building’s progress. Everything about this building is touched by symbolism, if not patriotism. New Yorkers shouldn’t be the only ones feeling proud about this skyscraper.

Of course, this being Chicago some people will begin to feel the twitch of the “Second City Complex” at the notion that our skyscrapers are taking a back seat to New York City again. Like our mayor. Here’s what Rahm Emanuel has to say about the Council’s decision.

"I just saw the decision," the mayor said. "And 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. That's number one.

"Number two," he continued, "I think (with) the Willis Tower you will have a view that's unprecedented in its beauty, its landscape and its capacity to capture something. Something you can't do from an antenna. Not that I'm competitive. So for all those who want to climb on top of an antenna and take a look, go ahead. I would suggest stay indoors and take a look."

It was nice of Emanuel to take a break from waging war against public education, kicking the can down the road on pension reform and trying to slow the city’s murder rate to find another way to declare Chicago a “world class city”—we’re working on a “Chicago is a world class city” drinking game, by the way—to weigh in on something as pressing as whether our city’s tallest building will still receive the recognition it deserves. The tiny dancer often flies into an aggravated Arabesque whenever he feels the city's civic pride is offended

Frankly, we shouldn’t care. Once the world’s tallest building, Willis (or Sears, for those folks who didn't get over the name change) Tower is now the tenth-tallest building in the world. We Chicagoans should look at what is now shaping up to be this building’s legacy. The 40-year-old beauty has inspired generations of architects and engineers around the globe to reach higher. It is part of one of the world’s greatest skylines and we agree with Emanuel that the skyline is unprecedented in its beauty. Hell, why do you think so many tourists and residents use the skyline as a photography subject? The way the skyline flows in a straight line from afar is a work of genius!

There’s nothing wrong with being second-best when it contributes to being first in the bigger picture.