Monday, July 22, 2002

Ours is bigger than Yours

We'll get to the rant in a minute. Stay with me.

So they announced six proposals for rebuilding the World Trade Center site. I seem to be agreeing with public polls which favor the "Memorial Park" and "Memorial Promenade" concepts. The six designs are all very conservative, which is probably not a bad way to go, but I would have liked to have seen some bold architectural options. (Let's stop here for a minute to note how odd it is that the new plans call for towers ranging from 60-80 stories and we are calling them "conservative"). If it was up to me, I'd build one mongo 150-story tower as a giant "screw you" message to the world. But, I recognize that it would be difficult to make a building like that profitable, so I don't mind if they take the more conservative road.

Here's one thing I really like: all six plans call for at least one "1500 foot skyline element". That basically means a big pole sitting on top of the main tower(s). It just better be a structural element and not a radio antenna. Why is this important? Come, let's explore.

From the moment our furry ancestors first stood upright, man has always played the game of "mine's bigger than your's". For decades, the 102-story Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world (1252 feet). Then the 110-Story World Trade Center was built (1350 feet). A couple years later, Chicago's Sears Tower, also 110 stories, took the crown at 1450 feet. The United States was #1 in skyscrapers up until 1998, when the Petronas Towers were built. They soar 88 stories above the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Huh? How is an 88-story building taller than a 110 story building?

There is a Super Secret Society of architecture swamis who live on an island in the South Pacific, and they set up the rules to declare the World's Tallest Building. According to them, architectural spires count towards the height of a building, but television antennas do not. So even though the observation deck of the Sears tower is over 200 feet ABOVE the top floor of the Petrona towers, the Kuala Lumpur building has a big stick on top which brings its official height to 1483 feet. Chicago is not allowed to count the freaking huge TV antenna sitting on top of the 110th floor.

So when we rebuild the Wrold Trade Center, we need to make sure that we put a big stick on top of our buildings to hit the 1500 foot and reclaim the title of World's Tallest Building. We're Americans: ours should be bigger.

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