Bringing Home the Beacon – One World Trade Center’s Jewel in the Crown May Be Installed Today

By Matthew Fenton Battery Park City Broadsheet

Top  of spire awaits photo by Robert Simko

Top of spire awaits. Photo by Robert Simko

The coronation of One World Trade Center as the tallest building in New York (and possibly the Western Hemisphere, depending on whom you believe), originally planned for Monday, was scrubbed due to high winds. The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey now says the last two pieces of the tower’s spire will be installed as soon as “conditions permit,” which could mean that the topping off will happen as early as today.

The 400-foot-plus spire is comprised of 18 gargantuan segments, the first of which was hoisted and bolted into place in December. For more than a week, the final piece, a 100-foot-tall pinnacle, has been discreetly sitting in the shadow of One World Trade Center, on the Vesey Street side of the building.

This piece, which is shaped like the nose cone of a rocket, contains more than 250 high-powered LED lights that will project a dazzling 300,000 lumens across the metropolitan area with rotating panels of aluminum mirrors. (The lights are both decorative and functional: they will ward off passing aircraft, but also be configured in various patterns of colors, to suit the season and upcoming holidays.) The tip of the top also conceals broadcasting equipment that will beam television and radio signals to three states.

Once ensconced, the pinnacle will bring the building to a point in more ways than one: The tower’s height will reach a symbolic 1,776 feet. History buffs will recall this as the year when Scottish economist Adam Smith published his classic work, “The Wealth of Nations” — a fitting tie-in for a building complex devoted to international trade. (Coincidentally, that was also the year of some political turmoil between Great Britain and her possessions in the New World.)

But some argue that the emphasis on 1776 is misplaced. (The height, not the year.) While the Port Authority claims that the building will be “the tallest in the Western Hemisphere,” a different authority (the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, which is the official umpire of “tallest building” claims) says, in essence, “not so fast.”

That group sizes up structural stature according to three criteria. The first, “height to architectural top” (meaning the distance between the ground floor and the roof) is the one most observers credit with conferring “tallest building” bragging rights. The other two categories are “highest occupied floor” and “height to tip.” In both of the first two categories, One World Trade Center, which measures just a shade taller than 1,350 feet, lags behind at least two other buildings: the Willis Tower (about 100 feet taller) and the Trump Tower (about 30 feet loftier), both in Chicago.

In the third category, which reckons only the building’s highest point (in this case, the top of the spire), One World Trade Center reigns occidentally supreme. Neither the Willis nor Trump buildings come close to 1,776 feet, even if their antennae are counted.

But, since the Council on Tall Buildings is based in Chicago, mere blocks from the other two “tallest in the Western Hemisphere” contenders, many Lower Manhattan civic boosters dismiss their caviling as picayune provincialism. Either way, One World Trade Center is slated to be open sometime in 2014.

(EarthCam’s collection of megapixel construction cameras provide a live feed of the final sections of the spire being put into place, accessible by clicking HERE.)
photos by Robert Simko

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