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Tallest Buildings in the World

The title of the world’s tallest building has changed hands four times in a little over a decade as architects’ ambition and construction technology continue to seemingly defy the laws of gravity. The current titleholder, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, is nearly twice as high as Chicago’s Willis Tower, which was the highest building in the world for 25 years until 1998. But with plans recently announced to build a tower that is 1 kilometre high in Saudi Arabia, the Burj Khalifa is unlikely to hold the title for long. Here’s the current top ten.

1. Burj Khalifa

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa currently holds the record as the world’s tallest building. Standing at 828 metres, with 163 floors, it also claims a number of other superlatives, including being the world’s tallest free-standing structure, the building with the highest number of stories and the highest occupied floor. Completed in 2010, the tower was designed by the Chicago office of architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, with Adrian Smith acting as chief architect. Its distinctive design reflects the structure of the local hymenocallis desert flower, with the building consisting of three sections, arranged around a central core. It is topped off with a spire, and when viewed from the ground, its shape is reminiscent of the traditional domes prevalent in Islamic architecture.

2. Taipei 101

Completed in 2004, Taipei 101 held the record as the world’s tallest building for six years, before being usurped by Burj Khalifa. The 101 story high tower, which is in Taiwan’s capital Taipei, is 508 metres tall. Architects C.Y. Lee & Partners, took their inspiration for the building from traditional Chinese architecture, with the structure reflecting that of a pagoda. After the initial base, the tower rises in eight distinct sections, each of which has eight floors, to reflect the Chinese lucky number 8. The tower’s shape also resembles a bamboo plant, which symbolizes everlasting strength in Chinese culture. Each section of the building is slightly slanted, to reduce the impact of wind.

3. Shanghai World Finance Centre

Architects Kohn Pederson Fox Associates also borrowed heavily from Chinese symbolism in the design of the Shanghai World Finance Centre. The building’s structure is based on a square prism, to reflect the ancient Chinese symbol for the earth. It is intersected by two ‘cosmic arcs’, which represent heaven, as the tower rises into the sky. The square ‘sky portal’ at the top of the tower aims to give balance to the structure and link the opposing elements of heaven and earth. The 492-metre tall tower was completed in 2004. Originally conceived in 1993, the project was put on hold during the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s.

4. International Commerce Centre

Towering above the Kowloon skyline in Hong Kong is the International Commerce Centre, a 484 metre high tower with 118 floors, housing offices, shops, apartments and the world’s highest hotel, a Ritz-Carlton. Designed by Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, and Wong and Ouyang, the tower, which was completed in 2010, has the second highest number of floors for any building in the world. Its design incorporates a number of ‘green’ features, which aim to limit its impact on the environment. These include an ‘intelligent’ air-conditioning system, which responds to variations in the outside temperature. Water from the air-conditioning is also recycled and used in cooling towers or to flush toilets. The elevators use a passenger smart card system to assign lifts to people going to similar floors to reduce waiting times and save energy by minimizing the number of times lifts have to stop and restart.

5. Petronas Towers

The distinctive twin Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, held the record for the world’s tallest building between 1998 and 2004. Standing at 452 metres high, with 88 floors, the towers still retain the crown as the tallest twin buildings in the world. At 120 metres, the towers also have the world’s deepest foundations. Designed by Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli, of Pelli Clark Pelli Architects, the pattern of the steel and glass façade of the building is intended to reflect the motifs found in Islamic art. The two towers are joined at the 41st and 42nd floors by a skybridge – the highest two-story skybridge in the world. It is not attached to the main structure, but is designed to slide in and out of the towers to prevent it from breaking if the towers sway during high winds.

6. Zifeng Tower

The distinctive triangular shape of Zifeng Tower in Nanjing, China, was choosen to optimise views of the surrounding mountains, lakes, historic buildings and the Yangtze river. The tower was designed by Adrian Smith, of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the same architect who was behind Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Zifeng Tower stands at 450 metres and has 89 floors, housing offices, shops, restaurants and a hotel. Its distinctive stepped design separates off the different sections of the building, and it is topped off with a spire. It was completed in 2008 and is the second tallest building in China.

7. Willis Tower

Achitectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill is also behind the seventh tallest building in the world, the Willis Tower in Chicago, USA.  Completed in 1974, the tower is the oldest of the world’s top 10 tallest buildings, and held the title as the tallest tower in the world for 25 years, until it was overtaken by the Petronas Towers in 1998. It is still the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Designed by architect Bruce Graham, it is made up of steel columns and beams, which fit together in a ‘mega-module’ system. It is 442 metres high and has 110 floors.

8. Guangzhou International Finance Centre

Built in 2010, the Guangzhou International Finance Centre, in Guanzhou, China, stands at 432 metres tall and has 103 floors. Designed by architects Wilkinson Eyre Associates, the buildings distinctive curved triangular structure was used to help it withstand the typhoons that regularly hit the region. After extensive computer analysis, a composite structure was used, made up of a reinforced concrete core, combined with a ‘diagrid’ frame. This not only provided overall stability, but it also significantly reduced the amount of steel needed for the tower’s construction. The building is mainly used for office space, but also includes a hotel.

9. Trump International Hotel & Tower

The Trump International Hotel and Tower, named after US business magnate Donald Trump, was completed in 2009. The building, which is located in Chicago, USA, stands at 423 metres and has 98 floors. Designed by architect Adrian Smith, of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, it is the tallest tower to be built in the US since the Willis Tower was completed in 1974. Trump International was originally planned to be the tallest building in the world, but plans were scaled back following the September 11 terrorist attacks. It was briefly home to the highest residence in the world, before being eclipsed by the Burj Khalifa.

10. Jin Mao Tower

The Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai, China, is the fourth building by architect Adrian Smith, of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, to make it into the list of the world’s 10 tallest towers. Built in 1998, it stands at 420.5 metres high. Its name means golden prosperity building in Chinese, and its design aims to incorporate traditional Chinese architecture, such as its tiered pagoda shape, with modern building technology. Many of its features revolve around the lucky Chinese number 8, with the tower having 88 floors, and being built around an octagonal base. It is divided into 16 sections, each of which is an eighth shorter than the building’s 16 story base.

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