The new Wilshire Grand Center adds scale to Los Angeles' skyline

Story highlights

  • The Wilshire Grand Center is now the tallest building in California
  • The tower officially opened in downtown Los Angeles earlier this month

(CNN)After five years of construction, the Wilshire Grand Center is now the tallest building in Los Angeles and the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

At 1,100 feet, the new structure stands slightly above the 1,018-foot US Bank Tower -- previously the tallest skyscraper in the city.
The Wilshire Grand Center's 73 stories will be split between a hotel and commercial space. Designed by architecture firm AC Martin Partners, the building will also host the city's highest open-air bar and a top-floor viewing deck with 360-degree views of the city.

    All in the details

    The Wilshire Grand Center may have clinched the "tallest building" title, but it has stirred controversy in the process. The tower's design attracted criticism when it was revealed that a 100-foot spire at its peak would provide an 80-foot advantage over the former city record-holder.
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    "We've been accused of cheating, but we added this spire as an architectural feature, and didn't initially consider that this would make us the tallest," explains Lisa Gritzner, spokesperson for the Wilshire Grand Center.
    "In fact, because some buildings in Los Angeles are constructed on a hill, other buildings may even appear taller at first."
    According to the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a spire is considered to be an architectural feature, and is therefore taken into account when measuring a building's height.

    Chasing skylines

    Additional height is not the only noteworthy feature of this new structure -- it's also the first skyscraper in Los Angeles to feature a pointed rooftop.
    In 2014, the city dropped its long-standing requirement for skyscrapers to maintain a flat-roof design, a regulation introduced in the 1970s to allow for emergency helicopter landings.
    The spire is supported by what Gritzner calls the "sail" -- a slanted peak containing the building's mechanics. The roof also features an LED lighting system that can project images onto the building's face or light up for major events.
    "The unique roof features adds significantly to the development of the Los Angeles skyline, because not only is it the first skyscraper that doesn't have a flat-roof design, but is also one of the first to utilize this lighting technology," says Gritzner, before comparing the building to New York's Empire State Building.
    "It (the Empire State Building) is tall, unique and has an identifiable roofline -- the Wilshire Grand Center will have a similar impact on the Los Angeles' skyline."

    A work in progress

    Although the Wilshire Grand Center is officially open, key areas of the skyscraper will remain under construction for several months.
    The hotel, which was built in partnership with InterContinental, is complete and open to the public. But the offices are still a work in progress.
    "The time spent competing the remaining office interiors will depend on individual tenants, but we do expect that to be 'a wrap' within the next few months, and definitely within 2017," says Gritzner.