Supertall Skyscraper

Buildings higher than 300 meters (984 ft.) are supertall skyscrapers. During the late 1920s there was an unofficial competition to see who could build the tallest building in New York City.


In 1913, the Woolworth Building was the highest in New York City, at 792 feet.

New York architects William Van Alen and Craig Severance were business partners, but the partnership dissolved bitterly. Each received a commission to build a tall building and each determined to outdo the other.

In 1929, Severance’s Bank of Manhattan Trust on Wall Street rose to an extraordinary 927 feet (282 meters). However, Van Alen secretly built a 185 ft. (56 meters) tall spire inside his skyscraper, the Chrysler Building. In 1930, it became the tallest building in the world at 1,046 feet (318 meters).

At a total height of over 300 meters, many argue Van Alen’s building arguably became the first supertall skyscraper. However, controversy remains whether the spire counts towards total height.

The question became one more for the trivia books when, in 1931, the Empire State Building soared to 1,250 feet (381 meters). The tower was the tallest in the world. William F. Lamb was the lead architect.

Later Buildings

The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world for forty years. Eventually, in 1971, the first of the Twin Towers surpassed the record. They were 1,362 ft. (415 meters) and 1,368 (417 meters) respectively. In 1973, the 1,450 ft. (442 meters) Sears Tower in Chicago topped that height, holding the tallest building in the world for decades.

After the Sears Tower, Americans dialed back on height-mania. Several skyscrapers in Asia and the Middle East passed the American towers in height.

Terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center buildings in 2001, murdering 2,996 people trapped inside. In 2014, One World Trade Center replaced the Twin Towers. It rose to 1,775 ft. (541 meters), making it the tallest building in the US.