The tallest building in the US is in New York City. The city’s skyline alone is a tourist attraction whereby visitors come from all over the world to see the spectacle. Surprisingly, the US is no longer home to the world’s tallest buildings.
Since 2014, New York City has focused on constructing supertall buildings. Many people see the trend as a good thing. Architect Gregg Pasquarelli with SHoP said, “supertalls are interesting; they’re a symbol that New York is alive and doing well. And that we have a city that’s alive and reinventing its skyline continuously. You can live in places that give you vantage points that were never possible before.”
Birthplace Of Skyscrapers
Chicago is the site of the world’s first skyscraper. Tiny by today’s standards, Home Insurance Building had ten stories and stood at 138 feet. In 1885, its height was considered enormous. Steel-frame construction methods for building tall structures were developed in Chicago.
Within a few years, New York City began building skyscrapers. In 1889, the Tower Building opened to the public. The building was 11 stories tall. After that, both cities began competing to see who could build the tallest structure.
New York City Is The King
New York City not only has the tallest buildings in the US but is also the city with the most skyscrapers. NYC has 309 skyscrapers over 492 feet tall, while Chicago has 130. Miami comes in a distant third with 58, and Houston fourth with 38.
Supertall skyscrapers have grown in popularity as more people are living in cities. City residents want to be close to work and have immediate access to shopping, and other activities. Moreover, many don’t want to drive as public transportation is efficient in the country’s larger cities.
Due to their unique design and height, supertall buildings are more vulnerable to natural elements.
With supertall buildings, wind is their greatest natural threat. A supertall building or a building with a unique geometry or offsets is more vulnerable to the wind. Because supertall skyscrapers are new, in regions with higher seismicity, building codes do not address their different aspects.
For example, supertall buildings react to ground tremors in different ways than traditional skyscrapers. The issue is how the fundamental vibration mode is not the controlling response. To address this, performance based seismic design (PBSD) is applied.
PBSD methodologies make seismic demands easier to define and address.
Wind blowing against a surface naturally causes pressure. With supertall buildings, dragging occurs when a tower sways in the direction of the wind. The same wind direction can cause the tower to sway about an axis parallel to the wind direction.
The phenomenon is known as a crosswind effect. The sway of the tower perpendicular to the wind direction is a result of the differential pressures created by vortex shedding. In some instances, this crosswind effect can result in demands on the structure greater than the effects of dragging.
One design parameter for supertall towers is interstory drift. Excessive interstory drift will impact a structure’s architectural finishes and building façade systems.
Reducing tower drifts is important to the performance of a supertall. However, most building codes do not prescribe drift limits, leaving their definition and application to the discretion of the building’s designers.
Megatall skyscrapers are taller than supertall buildings. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), a megatall structure is taller than 1,968 feet. Meanwhile, a supertall building is 984 feet.
Today, there are only three megatall buildings:
- Burj Khalifa – Dubai, United Arab Emirates – 2,722 feet
- Shanghai Tower – Shanghai, China – 2,073 feet
- Makkah Royal Clock Tower – Mecca, Saudi Arabia – 1,621 feet
25 Tallest Buildings In The US
What are the 25 tallest buildings in the US? Here’s the latest list, which keeps growing, particularly where New York is concerned. More than 20 are proposed or planned for completion in the next five to seven years.
- One World Trade Center – 1,776 feet.
- Central Park Tower – 1,550 feet.
- Willis Tower – 1,451 feet.
- 111 West 57th Street – 1,428.
- One Vanderbilt – 1,401 feet.
- 432 Park Avenue – 1,396 feet.
- Trump International Hotel And Tower – 1,388 feet.
- 30 Hudson Yards – 1,296 feet.
- Empire State Building – 1,250 feet.
- Bank of America Tower – 1,200 feet.
- St. Regis Chicago – 1,198 feet.
- Aon Center – 1,136 feet.
- 875 North Michigan Avenue – 1,128 feet.
- Comcast Technology Center – 1,121 feet.
- Wilshire Grand Center – 1,100 feet.
- 3 World Trade Center – 1.079 feet.
- Salesforce Tower – 1.070 feet.
- Brooklyn Tower – 1,073 feet.
- 53W53 – 1,050 feet.
- Chrysler Building – 1,046 feet.
- New York Times Building – 1,046 feet.
- The Spiral – 1,041 feet.
- Bank of America Plaza – 1,023 feet.
- US Bank Tower – 1,018 feet.
- 50 Hudson Yards – 1,011 feet.
One World Trade Center
Height: 1,776 feet
One World Trade Center (One WTC) was built on the site of the former Twin Towers in New York City. The Lower Manhattan skyscraper is the anchor building of a larger complex.
The height of the building is not random. It serves as a nod to the year 1776, the year when America officially became a nation. One WTC is the seventh tallest building in the world. It is also home to One World Observatory, an enclosed observation deck.
Central Park Tower
Height: 1,550 feet
In second place is NYC’s Central Park Tower, the city’s tallest residential building. It sits on 57th street on Billionaire’s Row. The bottom of the building houses a Nordstrom’s department store, which explains why it’s known as the Nordstrom Tower.
Height: 1,451 feet
Chicago’s Sears Tower became the Willis Tower in 1994. It is the city’s tallest building. The 108-story skyscraper was the tallest building in the world when built in 1974. In fact, it ruled the worldwide list as the tallest building for almost 25 years.
Despite the recent spate of supertall buildings in other countries, the Willis Tower is still the tallest steel-construction building worldwide. Buildings that are taller use concrete or composite construction.
111 West 57th Street
Height: 1,428 feet.
The fourth tallest building in the US is 111 West 57th Street, also called the Steinway Building. It is one of the most recent skyscraper additions to the NYC skyline and also the skinniest.
Built as a residential building, the Steinway Building is part of the new trend for superskinny skyscrapers. With the super slim profile, issues arise, like swaying of up to five feet in windy weather.
Height: 1,401 feet.
One Vanderbilt is a massive skyscraper that takes up an entire block. The fifth tallest building in the US, it is NYC’s second tallest office building.
The exterior of One Vanderbilt matches Grand Central Station, which is next door. The skyscraper’s observation deck is known for its immersive environment and panoramic views.
432 Park Avenue
Height: 1,396 feet.
At number six is 432 Park Avenue. The building is a luxury residential building with 84 floors and sky-high prices. It was the first “super skinny” skyscraper and has amazing views of Central Park and beyond.
Trump International Hotel And Tower
Height: 1,388 feet.
Chicago’s Trump International Hotel and Tower has 98 stories and sits next to the main part of the Chicago River. Plans were for it to be taller, but they were scaled back after the September 11th attack in New York City.
30 Hudson Yards
Height: 1,296 feet.
The eighth tallest building in the US, 30 Hudson Yards is one of the main parts of the biggest private estate development in US history.
In NYC, the building ranks as the second tallest office tower and is associated with high-end companies and luxury stores and restaurants.
30 Hudson Yards also has an observation deck that is the fifth highest in the world and has some amazing outdoor features and experiences.
Empire State Building
Height: 1,250 feet.
In fact, it did rank as the tallest building in New York for many years. It was knocked from first place when the original World Trade Center was built. It was also the first skyscraper on a global level to have more than 100 floors.
Bank of America Tower
Height: 1,200 feet.
Not only is the Bank of America Tower the 10th tallest building in the US, but it is also one of the “greenest.” The Tower is the first of its kind: A Platinum LEED-certified supertall skyscraper
The 58-story office building cost $1 billion to build and opened in 2009. The tower is composed of a majority of recyclable materials.
St. Regis Chicago
Height: 1,198 feet.
St. Regis Chicago is the tallest building in the world designed by a woman. Completed in 2020, it has 101 stories and was the city’s third tallest skyscraper.
The tower overlooks Lake Michigan and is used for residences and the St. Regis Hotel, which opened in 2022. To reduce swaying the build uses different technologies including giant tanks of water.
Height: 1,136 feet.
The 12th tallest building in the US, the Aon Center in Chicago, is the city’s fourth tallest. It was built in 1974, has 83 floors, and used to be called the Amoco building
The building is in the process of adding an observatory and a new entrance pavilion. The observatory will include a thrill ride on the roof called the Sky Summit along with the tallest exterior elevator in the world.
875 North Michigan Avenue
Height: 1,128 feet.
Long known as the John Hancock Center, this Chicago skyscraper was renamed 875 North Michigan Avenue. The building sits in the Magnificent Mile district and has 100 stories.
The mixed-use building includes a 95th-floor restaurant that looks out over Lake Michigan. It also has 360 Chicago, an observatory with a moving platform that lets visitors lean 30 degrees over the edge.
Comcast Technology Center
Height: 1,121 feet.
The Comcast Technology Center is the first skyscraper on the list outside of Chicago or New York. The supertall building is in Center City, Philadelphia, and has 60 floors.
It is home to the highest hotel in the USW. The skyscraper also has a restaurant on the top floors. The rest of the building is devoted to Comcast offices, television studios, and retail stores.
Wilshire Grand Center
Height: 1,100 feet.
California’s tallest building, the Wilshire Grand Center takes up a whole city block in the Los Angeles financial district. The 73-floor skyscraper is the tallest building west of Chicago.
The mixed-use building has offices, retail businesses and a hotel. The hotel portion takes up the highest floors and includes a Sky Lobby on the 70th floor, restaurants and the highest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere
3 World Trade Center
Height: 1.079 feet.
The 16th tallest building is back in New York. Three World Trade Center is the second skyscraper built on the site of the original Twin Towers.
The 80-story skyscraper is an office building with retail at the bottom. In fact, retail businesses take up the two below-ground floors as well as three at street level.
Height: 1.070 feet.
San Francisco’s tallest building ranks as the 17th tallest in the United States. The 61-floor skyscraper is the main feature in the redevelopment of the downtown South of Market district.
The tower is a dominant element of the city’s skyline and has a distinctive crown on the top. “Day for Night,” a nine-story electronic sculpture, is in the crown, making it the world’s highest work of public art.
Height: 1,073 feet.
The Brooklyn Tower is the tallest building in New York that is not in Manhattan. The tower is also known as 9 De Kalb, a 74-floor residential tower with retail businesses.
The main feature that makes the Brooklyn Tower special is the historic Dime Savings Bank building. The developers preserved the historic building and attached the new tower to the Classic Revival bank building.
Height: 1,050 feet.
53 West 53 in Midtown Manhattan sits next to the Museum of Modern Art. The mixed-use skyscraper has 77 stories and unique sloping facades.
French architect Jean Nouvel designed the supertall building. Original plans were for a higher tower but architects and the developer cut the height due to protests.
Height: 1,046 feet.
The Chrysler Building, the 20th tallest skyscraper, is another icon of the NYC skyline. Its Art Deco design and silhouette are distinctive and a national favorite.
The Chrysler Building is not only is it one of the tallest buildings in the United States, but it is also the world’s tallest brick building with a steel inner structure.
New York Times Building
Height: 1,046 feet.
The New York Times Building is occupied by its namesake tenant. The 52-floor office building is designed to be green.
The base of the skyscraper has retail space. The famous newsroom surrounds an enclosed garden. Developers completed construction on the billion-dollar building in 2007.
Height: 1,041 feet.
The Spiral is another skyscraper in Hudson Yards. Topped out but not completed as of 2022, it has 66 floors.
Otherwise known as 66 Hudson Yards, the supertall building will have an outdoor garden on each floor. The gardens will be in a spiral pattern around the building. It will also house the corporate offices of pharmaceutical firm Pfizer.
Bank of America Plaza
Height: 1,023 ft.
Bank of America Plaza in Atlanta is the tallest building in the Southeastern United States. Ranking 23rd in the US, the skyscraper has 55 floors.
The supertall building is an art deco version of New York City’s Chrysler Building. The 90-foot spire at the top is gilded with 23 karat gold leaf and has lighting to make it glow an orange-yellow at night.
US Bank Tower
Height: 1,018 feet
The U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles is the third-tallest building West of Chicago. Also called the Library Tower, the skyscraper is also the only one in California higher than 1,000 feet.
The 73-story structure was designed to resist earthquakes with an 8.3 magnitude. The building once featured the OUE Skyspace observation deck, which is no longer open and is undergoing renovations to make room for more office space.
50 Hudson Yards
Height: 1,011 feet
50 Hudson Yards is the third supertall skyscraper in the Hudson Yards complex. The 58-story building is still under construction although it is topped out.
When it is finished, the skyscraper will rank fourth in office space square footage. Facebook (Meta) will be the largest tenant and already has plans to occupy eight percent of the building.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
What US City Has The Most Skyscrapers?
Among US cities, New York City has the most skyscrapers at 257. Chicago is a distant second with 119 and Miami ranks third with 45, less than half the number that Chicago has. Houston is fourth with 36.
Which US City Has The Most Iconic skyline?
Without question, New York City has the most iconic skyline. Which cities follow NYC are open to debate. Most people will tell you that the Chicago city skyline is the second most iconic, which is probably true. Coming in third place, it would have to be either Los Angeles or Houston.
Are Skyscrapers Worth The Expense?
The purpose of a skyscraper is to allow more people to live or work in a particular city. For that purpose, the answer is yes. The cost, however, can vary from about $150 million to several billion dollars depending on the location and what is included in the building.
Are Skyscrapers Environmentally Friendly?
A skyscraper is environmentally friendly based on its materials and construction. The buildings consume more vertical space than horizontal space, so they require less land. However, due to their height, the buildings require more power to operate.
What Makes A Building A Skyscraper?
There isn’t a worldwide standard definition for a skyscraper. To be considered a skyscraper, a building must be 492 feet tall. The structure must have multiple floors 50 percent habitable. Otherwise, there are no specific requirements. There are, however, rules for how to measure a building’s height.
Tallest Building In The US: Wrap Up
The US will always hold the distinction of being the home of the skyscraper and birthplace of the supertall building. However, it is no longer home to the most skyscrapers worldwide.