Break out the Champaign, a panel of architects has officially named New York's Freedom Tower the tallest skyscraper in North America. The Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat made the announcement, determining that the 400+ foot needle atop the building was an architectural element and not simply an antennae, allowing it to surpass Chicago's Willis Tower (which will forever be referred to as the Sears Tower).
Not everyone is thrilled about the decision. Chicago's Sears Tower is 1451 feet tall, while the roof at the Freedom Tower is at just 1368 feet. Determining the Freedom Tower's spire an architectural element is a gray area.
It's not new though. When the Chrysler Building was completed in 1930, it was expected to be the world's second tallest building, second to the Bank of Manhattan Trust building. At the last moment, a 125 foot tall spire was placed atop the Chrysler Building, making it the world's tallest building until it would be topped a year later by the Empire State Building.
Despite hosting a number of "World's Tallest," New York City did not invent the skyscraper. Because the construction technique that allowed buildings to scrape the sky was developed in Chicago, the Windy City is credited as the birthplace of the skyscraper.
Philadelphia, even with the Gentleman's Agreement that didn't allow a building to surpass William Penn's hat, held the honor of the World's Tallest with City Hall for seven years. To this day, Philadelphia City Hall is still the world's tallest masonry building, and given the costly construction, one unlikely to ever be surpassed.
Freedom Tower's position as the nation's tallest is in part symbolic, precisely at 1776 feet, it pays homage to the nation's founding. It also brings along with it an iconic end to the recovery following the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
Whether or not Chicago decides to challenge New York City by building an even taller skyscraper remains to be seen. The city is certainly capable. But it won't erase the Freedom Tower's significance which is largely its location and what it represents.
Skyscrapers across the Middle East and Asia have far surpassed anything constructed in America, any while they're symbolic of Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and China's symbolic efforts, they're the product of poor labor conditions and exploitation.
The Freedom Tower represents more than its architects, developers, and builders, it represents an ideal, perseverance, and innovation created here, in the United States, that allowed buildings around the globe to touch the clouds.