Few national milestones will mean more to Americans than the completion of One World Trade, the centerpiece of an effort to memorialize and rebuild after 9/11. Already the tallest building in New York City as of April 30, 2012, One World Trade's final height will rise 1,776-feet into Manhattan’s skyline, a direct reference to 1776, the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. When construction is complete in 2013, the structure will be distinguished as the third-tallest building in the world and the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.
But until then, the record for tallest completed building on the western half of the globe goes to Chicago's Willis Tower, according to the official word from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats which measures from the level of the lowest entrance to the architectural top of the building, including spires, but not including antennae, signage, flag poles or other functional-technical equipment. The tallest building on the planet? The Burj Khalifa, an architectural marvel in the desert kingdom of Dubai. As for the rest of the top ten, Asia lays claim to all (five of them in China), save for the Willis Tower, the eighth-tallest building in the world.
The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is 1,451-feet and boasts 108 stories of steel. It was the tallest building in the world in 1973 when construction was completed and today houses both office and retail space. Even after naming rights expired in 2003, the official name change didn't take place until 2009 when London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings agreed to lease a portion of the building. The building remains one of the city's most visited tourist locations thanks to an observation deck with spectacular views of the Windy City.
China's lion's share of the world's top ten tallest buildings is led by the Shanghai World Financial Center, which towers over the Pudong district of Shanghai, China. Designed by American architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, views of the surrounding city are visible from 1,555-feet. The structure itself tops out at 1,614 feet and features shopping malls, office space, conference rooms, and a hotel in the clouds. The 174-room Park Hyatt Shanghai, which occupies 35 floors of the building is ranked as the second-highest hotel in the world.
Still, it’s just a matter of time before the Shanghai World Financial Center will be overshadowed by another. The Shanghai Tower, currently under construction with completion scheduled for 2014, will be the second tallest building in the world. It will stand an astounding 2,073 feet high. Getting to its top will require racing toward the clouds in the one of the building's 106 elevators, and this will happen at speeds that will clock in at about 3,281 feet per minute.
Sound more like a carnival ride than a way to get to a business meeting? You've got a point. But thanks to the aerodynamic design of the elevators, the experience won't be an ear-popping, stomach-tugging one. Employing up-to-the-minute mechanical technology, the skyward shuffles will control air-pressure and will be insulated to keep vibration and scary noises at bay. For anyone who plans to travel the 128 stories to the top, this is definitely good news.
Plans for an even taller building are underway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom Tower has been approved for construction on a site that overlooks the Red Sea. If completed as designed, it will be the first building in the world to surpass the 100-kilometer mark. (This is actually a scaled-down projection of its original mile-high design.) Soil testing was among the reasons the ambitious mile-high height projection was modified and also one of the reasons that the project has been slow getting off the ground.