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The new Wilshire Grand is tall. So what?

After three years of construction, the Wilshire Grand Center opens its doors on June 23, 2017.
After three years of construction, the Wilshire Grand Center opens its doors on June 23, 2017.
ATOMIC Hot Links via Flickr Creative Commons

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The tallest building west of the Mississippi opened up, last weekend – the Wilshire Grand in downtown LA.

It stands at 1,100 feet ... IF you count the 300 foot high spire that juts up from the top.

Otherwise it's actually shorter than its rival a few blocks away, the US Bank building.

Roof-to-roof, the Wilshire Grand is 34 feet shy of out-"talling" it (934 ft vs 968 ft).

But really, when it comes to architecture, does size really matter?

"I don't even know if all of us architects would really care about who's the tallest," says Alice Kimm, partner in John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects.

But historically, height does matter from the standpoint of pride.

"If you look at churches from the Middle Ages and their spires, those were always landmarks and points of stability," she says. "Height itself has always been a symbol of human aspiration."

The Wilshire Grand might be cheating a little bit, though, by using a spire to be the tallest building on the West Coast.

"It doesn't really count," says Kimm, who thinks height should be judged by the tallest floor.

There are some simple reasons why the Wilshire Grand didn't just climb a little higher to reach the top.

Towers are extremely expensive to build, for one, and developers must also take seismic activity into account when making a tall structure. 

But there's a bigger limitation: elevators.

"Elevators can only go up 60 to 70 stories before you have to stop, get out and transfer to another bank of elevators," says Kimm.

And both the Wilshire Grand and US Bank Building have 73 floors each.

Do you care which building is taller? And what's the value in having the largest building on the West Coast? Tell us in the comments.