2629: Or Whatever
Title text: Oh yeah, I didn't even know they renamed it the Willis Tower in 2009, because I know a normal amount about skyscrapers.
The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is a 108-story, 442.1 meter skyscraper in Chicago. It is currently the third tallest building in North America, and was indeed the tallest building in the world for 25 years, surpassing the World Trade Center upon opening in 1973, and being surpassed by the Petronas Towers upon their opening in 1998.
White Hat conveys some interesting historical trivia to Cueball, regarding the Sears Tower. Cueball then sets the record straight by correcting White Hat's use of the word tower: In the category of 'tower', the Willis Tower was never the tallest. Cueball then realizes he just one-upped White Hat with what he knows about tall structures in general, which might make him sound obsessive, so he tags on the meaningless caveat of "or whatever".
This is meant to diffuse the tension he may have added by his well-meaning contradiction, but could also be taken as a passive-aggressive behavior by interlocutors who may already be touchy about the original 'correction'.
In the title text, being already self-conscious that he has overstepped the mark for polite small talk, he then hypercorrects the self-perceived tone of his response by explicitly denying that he knows far more about the tower, but only by providing the very facts that he is trying to claim not to know. Alternately, this could be White Hat responding to something else Cueball said, as an annoyed way to either get Cueball to stop, or to make a point that Cueball knows more than is "normal" about skyscrapers.
This comic hinges on the debate about the tallest structure vs tallest building. A building is generally defined as a human-built structure fit for human habitation when it is fit for human habitation, while a structure is generally defined as anything humans make. (Or in some cases, anything an animal makes, like crab shells.)
It is far from unusual for the tallest building (habitable) to be shorter than the tallest structure (uninhabitable), such as in 1974 when the tallest structure was the Warsaw radio mast at 646.38 meters. The radio mast was uninhabitable, so the tallest building was the Sears Tower at 442.1 meters. The Warsaw tower collapsed in 1991, so it was not the tallest structure for the majority of the '90s.
After the Warsaw Tower's demise, the KVLY-TV mast, which stood at 629 meters, held the record of tallest structure until either 2000 or 2010, with the opening of the Petronius platform and Burj Khalifa respectively. (The date depends on whether you count underwater towers, as the Petronius platform is an oil rig and only 75 meters of the platform are above water.) It was also the tallest guyed mast up until 2019, when it was reduced to 605.6 meters, giving the KRDK-TV mast the record.
The CN tower stands at 553.3 meters (measured from top of spire), which is higher than the Sears/Willis tower but shorter than the KVLT-TV mast. It is mentioned as it has some habitable space but not much, causing debate about whether it is a building (referenced below). It was never the tallest structure, but if it's a building it would have been the tallest in the world from its opening in 1976 until the Canton Tower's in 2009. It is currently the 9th tallest building.
The debate surrounding the tallest building does not stop at building vs. structure. Architects have long argued about what the height definition of a building should be. Should it include antennas sitting at the top of the building? How about spires that form part of the architectural design of the building but are not part of the habitable space? Should we focus instead on the highest habitable floor? The debate has historically had relevance every time a new record is claimed by developers eager to reach new heights using any means possible (Size Does Matter, At Least In The Tallest Building Debate).
There is yet more debate about what counts as a building vs. a structure. While some people would say that any structure with any habitable space is a building, most people in the field agree that there is a certain threshold of habitable space, below which there is not enough habitable space to count as a "building", even if there is some.
A main point in this debate are TV towers, which are often tall towers with little habitable space in them, but with an observation deck at the top. Examples include the Tokyo Skytree, Fernsehturm Stuttgart, and CN tower. A similar structure is the Dubai Creek Tower, a tower under construction in Dubai, set to become the world's tallest structure. (The Dubai Creek Tower will not, however, broadcast tv signals.)
TV towers are sometimes counted as buildings as they do have some habitable space. However, they are often not as they are commonly considered to not have enough habitable space to be buildings, hence Cueball's line "The CN tower isn't always considered a building".
Wikipedia lists the tallest structures, and this YouTube video explains a bit more about tall buildings/structures. Since 2010 the Burj Khalifa has been both the tallest structure and the tallest building in the world.
- [White Hat and Cueball are looking out on a skyline with six smaller skyscrapers and one much taller. The tall building has three plateaus, where it gets thinner before the top. On the top there are also two tall antennas, one twice as high as the other. Around the buildings there are 7 small clouds and two distant birds flying next tot he top of the tallest building. The two are standing on a ground behind a fence, maybe a viewing point, for looking in over the city skyline. They are looking toward the tallest building.]
- White Hat: You know, back in the 90s, the Sears Tower was the world's tallest tower.
- Cueball: Yeah! Or "building." The CN Tower and the KVLY-TV Antenna were taller, but the CN Tower isn't always considered a building and the antenna is supported by guy wires or whatever.
- [Caption below the panel]:
- Whenever I get self-conscious about how obsessive I sound about some random topic, I panic and tack on "or whatever."
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