Last December, when New York Gov. George Pataki and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the plans for the Freedom Tower–to be built on the site of the World Trade Center–Gov. Pataki repeatedly announced that New York will once again become home to the world’s tallest building.
“Today we reclaim New York’s skyline with a towering beacon to New York and our nation’s resilience,” he said.
It made for a patriotic sound bite, but ultimately it may be little more than wishful thinking.
Upon completion, the Freedom Tower will stand proudly at 1,776 feet tall. Critics argue that the tower’s claim to the “tallest” title is cheap since 276 feet are part of an uninhabitable spire; still, when all is said and done, the tallest habitable building in the world right now–Taipei 101, which climbs 1,667 feet high–will be 109 feet shorter than the Freedom Tower.
The race is hardly over, though. The Freedom Tower is not expected to be completed until 2009, at which point it seems quite possible that at least one candidate for the tallest-building title will be on its way to completion. Although there are many plans in the works for skyscrapers designed to stand between 1,500 feet and 1,800 feet, it’s difficult to separate the pipe dreams from reality. Wealthy individuals, politicians and developers are prone to making grandiose promises of erecting the world’s tallest building, but more often than not, once the numbers are tabulated and the dust settles, the plans get cast aside, or they were never serious in the first place.
“Over the course of my career, I’ve seen plans for at least 40 or 50 buildings which were supposed to be the ‘tallest building in the world,’ and they were never built.” says Ron Klemencic, chairman of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization composed of professionals involved in creating skyscrapers.
One such questionable plan is the 2,222-foot-high pyramid-like meditation tower in Katangi, India, which was announced in 1998 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who gained fame and fortune as the Beatles’ guru. On Nov. 6, 1998, the first stone was reportedly laid, but there hasn’t been a word about the supposed project since then. Surely a project of that size would garner some attention if it were actually in progress?
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