Reaching sky high

The newly-built Shanghai Tower (on the right) adding to the city’s impressively tall skyline The newly-built Shanghai Tower (on the right) adding to the city’s impressively tall skyline Zhao Jian Kang
12 Mar
The world continued surging upwards in 2015, breaking records for the number of new tall buildings built in a single year

The financial sector might be nervously glancing over its shoulder at China’s apparent economic slowdown, but there are seemingly no such concerns in the world of Chinese skyscraper construction. 62 new buildings over 200m tall were added to China’s cities last year, far more than the rest of the world. For the first time ever, over 100 new skyscrapers (106 to be exact) were added to global city skylines within a single year, with the busiest constructors after China being Indonesia (nine), the UAE (seven) and Russia (four). Overall, 76 per cent of these new skyscrapers are in Asia, continuing a trend that has been underway since the 1980s. 48 of the 100 world’s tallest buildings are now located there, with 28 in the Middle East and only 17 in North America – once the dominant force in worldwide skyscraper building. Last year even saw Chicago’s 442m Willis Tower, once the world’s tallest, drop out of the top ten, following completion of the 632m Shanghai Tower, now the second-tallest in the world behind Dubai’s 828m Burj Khalifa.

‘America was the birthplace of the tall building, and it’s really phenomenal that One World Trade Centre [New York, 541m] is now the only building from the United States in the top ten,’ says Jason Gabel, spokesperson for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), which published these latest figures in its annual report. ‘Much as America used to use the tower for the promotion and the image of a company, we see the Middle East and Asia using tall buildings as a way to put themselves on the global map.’

At the turn of the millennium, there were 265 skyscrapers over 200m tall around the world, a number which had boomed to 1,040 by the end of 2015. CTBUH predicts that 2016, and even 2017, will see more skyscraper construction than ever before, with China again leading the way. ‘As long as its urban population growth continues on its trajectory,’ says Gabel, ‘I think this will be the new normal.’

This was published in the March 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

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