When I was in middle school, CBS was broadcasting Bicentennnial Minutes in the runup to 1976. For a Friday assembly one week, the teachers had us make up our own Bicentennial Minutes, imagining what we would say in 2175 about events 200 years earlier.
One of my classmates spoke about the World Trade Center towers, imagining that they would be demolished 200 years hence, as they would then be among the shortest buildings in New York City.
At the time, it seemed totally noncontroversial: we would go on putting up ever-taller buildings until the mighty Twin Towers were dwarfed by their neighbors.
* * *
Of course, the Towers met an untimely end, but that isn’t my point today.
The other day, my wife and I were walking around Chinatown, and I saw the new One World Trade Center tower rising into the clouds. And I wondered: since the construction of the original World Trade Center, and the Sears Tower in Chicago (now called the Willis Tower as Sears has pretty much imploded), how many buildings taller than the Empire State Building (the quintessential skyscraper when I was growing up) have been built in the US?
There have been two:
- The new World Trade Center tower;
- The Trump International Hotel in Chicago.
But then again, there are so many practical reasons not to build really tall buildings: they’re too expensive to build, horribly expensive to insure, difficult to evacuate in an emergency, and what happens if one gets hit by an airplane?
So much for our middle-school imaginings….