It’s a spire, It’s an antenna…No, it’s an architectural decoration!
What is the difference between all these? Maybe we’re all silly and there isn’t a difference? I find it a bit foolish how they are so harshly separated, but lets flesh it out in respect for those more concerned.
The difference caused a multi-year debate over what the tallest building in the world was before the Burj Khalifa was erected. Many people argued antennas are not structurally part of the building, while spires are.
Spire – A spire is a structure or formation, such as a steeple, that tapers to a point at the top. It is an architectural design feature rather than functional element. Spires are counted in official height measurements by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).
The Petronas Towers, constructed in 1996, was able to strip the Sears Tower’s claim to tallest building in the world with its 150 foot tall spires, eclipsing the Sears Tower by 33 feet. (the Sears Tower has broadcast antennas that make it taller than the Petronas Towers, but they are not counted by the CTBUH)
Another famous spire is the Empire State Building’s Art Deco spire, made famous by the original King Kong movie. The spire was originally meant to be a mooring mast for dirigibles but the high winds proved the idea to be unfeasible. The Empire State Building at 1,250 feet including the spire, was the tallest building in the world for over 40 years until the World Trade Center towers overtook it.
Antenna – An antenna is an electrical device that sends or receives radio waves for television or radio broadcasting or sending communication signals.
The Sears Tower, with its antennas, is 1,730 feet tall. However, antennas do not count towards the world’s tallest building, as per the CTBUH.
Basically the difference between a spire and an antenna is the difference in electrical current. Well, others also debate that a spire is a permanent element on the building while the antenna is not.
Here are some examples of spires and antennas at the top of various skyscrapers.