Height battle between Willis Tower and One World Trade Center reveals each city’s insecurities

One World Trade Center may have been officially declared the tallest building in the United States but one writer argues the debate is really about Chicago’s and New York City’s insecurities:

What this whole thing really measures isn’t the size of a pair of buildings—it’s the size of each city’s insecurity. New York has its hollow confidence, and Chicago has its inferiority complex. Each is painful, but both can be soothed by the balm of the biggest building. Helpful reminder: The reason that Western Hemisphere asterisk has to be applied to the Willis / World Trade debate is because, among the tallest buildings worldwide, these two barely make the top 10.

The tallest building thing is just a stand-in for the real question: Which is the better city? You’ll need a different kind of Council on Urban Habitat to really get to the bottom of that.

Which is the better city? New York City is consistently ranked as the #1 global city. New York has more glamor, more of the global financial industry, more people than other cities in the United States, and one of the most impressive concentrations of people, buildings, and wealth in Manhattan. Chicago has its place as the quintessential American city (from its explosive growth in the late 1800s, its place as a transportation hub, the birthplace of numerous financial industry and commodity trade inventions, and its contrasts of wealth and poverty) and architecture.

But, all places have imperfections. See an earlier post about Chicago’s insecurities. And, it also depends on which other cities are in the comparisons: New York City is commonly compared to the world’s greatest cities including London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. Chicago, on the other hand, contends with two larger U.S. cities (including Los Angeles, a city that doesn’t seem to get caught up in these debates) and perhaps the next tier of global cities.

How exactly a building settles these concerns is beyond me. As the article notes, there are other buildings around the world – in some that rank lower on the scale of global cities, places like Dubai, Mecca, and Shenzhen – that are as tall or taller.