|The CN Tower and the Toronto Harbor viewed from the Toronto City Centre Airport. Français : La tour CN et le port de Toronto (Canada) vus depuis l’aéroport du centre-ville.|
The CN Tower (French: Tour CN) is a 553.33 m-high (1,815.4 ft) concrete communications and observation tower in Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was completed in 1976, becoming the world’s tallest free-standing structure and world’s tallest tower at the time. It held both records for 34 years until the completion of Burj Khalifa and Canton Tower in 2010. It remains the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere, a signature icon of Toronto’s skyline, and a symbol of Canada, attracting more than two million international visitors annually.
Its name “CN” originally referred to Canadian National, the railway company that built the tower. Following the railway’s decision to divest non-core freight railway assets, prior to the company’s privatization in 1995, it transferred the tower to the Canada Lands Company, a federal Crown corporation responsible for real estate development. Since the name CN Tower became common in daily usage, the abbreviation was eventually expanded to Canadian National Tower or Canada’s National Tower. However, neither of these names is commonly used.
In 1995, the CN Tower was declared one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It also belongs to the World Federation of Great Towers, where it holds second-place ranking.
The idea of the CN Tower originated in 1968 when the Canadian National Railway had a desire to build a large TV and radio communication platform to serve the Toronto area, as well as demonstrate the strength of Canadian industry and CN in particular. These plans evolved over the next few years, and the project became official in 1972. The tower would have been part of Metro Centre (see CityPlace), a large development south of Front Street on the Railway Lands, a large railway switching yard that was being made redundant by newer yards outside the city. Key project team members were NCK Engineering as structural engineer; John Andrews Architects; Webb, Zerafa, Menkes, Housden Architects; Foundation Building Construction; and Canron (Eastern Structural Division).
At the time, Toronto was a boom town, and the late 1960s and early 1970s had seen the construction of numerous large skyscrapers in the downtown core, most notably First Canadian Place. This made broadcasting into the downtown area very difficult due to reflections off the buildings. The only solution was to raise the antennas above the buildings, demanding a tower over 300 m (980 ft) tall. Additionally, at the time, most data communications took place over point-to-point microwave links, whose dish antennae covered the roofs of large buildings. As each new skyscraper was added to the downtown, former line-of-sight links were no longer possible. CN intended to rent “hub” space for microwave links, visible from almost any building in the Toronto area. The CN Tower can be seen from at least as far away as Kennedy Street in Aurora, Ontario, approximately 40 km (25 mi) to the north, 60 km (37 mi) east of Toronto, in Oshawa, and from several points on the south shore of Lake Ontario, 48 km (30 mi) to the south in New York state in the United States.
In August 1974, construction of the main level commenced. Using 45 hydraulic jacks attached to cables strung from a temporary steel crown anchored to the top of the tower, twelve giant steel and wooden bracket forms were slowly raised, ultimately taking about a week to crawl up to their final position. These forms were used to create the brackets that support the main level, as well as a base for the construction of the main level itself. The Space Deck (currently named SkyPod) was built of concrete poured into a wooden frame attached to rebar at the lower level deck, and then reinforced with a large steel compression band around the outside.
The antenna was originally to be raised by crane as well, but during construction the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane helicopter became available when the United States Army sold off theirs to civilian operators. The helicopter, named “Olga”, was first used to remove the crane, and then flew the antenna up in 36 sections. The flights of the antenna pieces were a minor tourist attraction of their own, and the schedule was printed in the local newspapers. Use of the helicopter saved months of construction time, with this phase taking only three and a half weeks instead of the planned six months. The tower was topped off on April 2, 1975 after 26 months of construction, officially capturing the height record from Moscow’s Ostankino Tower, and bringing the total mass to 118,000 t (130,073 short tons; 116,136 long tons).
Two years into the construction, plans for Metro Centre were scrapped, leaving the tower isolated on the Railway Lands in what was then a largely abandoned light-industrial space. This caused serious problems for tourists to access the tower. Ned Baldwin, project architect with John Andrews, wrote at the time that “All of the logic which dictated the design of the lower accommodation has been upset,” and that “Under such ludicrous circumstances Canadian National would hardly have chosen this location to build.”