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updated: 9/7/2013 2:31 PM

Towers scrape new heights with 'vanity' spires

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  • Commercial buildings standing behind the Rainbow Bridge are reflected on a table at an observatory of a building at dusk in Tokyo, Japan.

      Commercial buildings standing behind the Rainbow Bridge are reflected on a table at an observatory of a building at dusk in Tokyo, Japan.
    Associated Press/Sept. 3, 2013

 
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Tall buildings just aren't what they used to be.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has released a report noting that the developers of many new super-skyscrapers have been sticking huge, "useless" needles on top of them so they can be marketed as being among the world's tallest.

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The trend means that many towers now appearing on lists of super-tall buildings actually have fewer usable floors and lower roofs than the old behemoths they are knocking out of the top ranks.

New York City's unfinished One World Trade Center is listed as being among the top offenders, thanks to the 408-foot needle installed on its roof, but it's hardly the worst in terms of "vanity height."

The entire top 40 percent of Dubai's Burj Al Arab is purely decorative.

The Chicago-based council, which is seen as a leading authority on skyscrapers, says 44 of the world's 72 tallest buildings got over the symbolic 300 meter mark by adding a decorative spire.

The phenomenon of adding vanity height to a building is nothing new.

In 1930, the developers of New York's Chrysler Building famously won a race to become the world's tallest by secretly assembling a 125-foot-tall steel spire in the tower's tip, and then hoisting it into place only after competitors at 40 Wall Street had finished adding floors to their building.

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