Skyscrapers are getting bigger, as cities race to break the record for the tallest tower. But in the future, they may become cities themselves, helping mitigate urban sprawl.
have just closed the door behind you and your dog is already jumping
up your leg, demanding you take him for a walk. Normally this would
mean a short journey in the lift or a few flights of the stairs. Not
so if your apartment is in one of the world’s new super-tall
buildings, where you might be hundreds of metres above ground. It’s
no walk in the park to take a walk in the park.
might think today’s skyscrapers are tall, but they are likely to be
dwarfed by concepts and future designs pushing human construction
higher and higher. In May this year, One
World Trade Center was
topped out and has become the world’s third-tallest building at
541m, restoring New York’s skyline and placing it back on the map
of super tall buildings. The mantle of world’s tallest
building is now held by Dubai’s Burj
completed in 2010 and which reaches the lofty height of 829.8m.
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is now the world’s tallest tower – at nearly 830m it is more than 300m taller than the previous holder, Taipei’s Tower 101.
presence of this enormous building and the fact that even more
buildings of comparable heights – so far – latest category of high-rises: the
mega-talls, buildings exceeding 600m in height. And this is likely to
be just the beginning.
the quest for new heights is not at all new. What is different though
is that the competition for tallness turned global and consequently
fiercer and more extreme. Cities and regions compete against each
other and require buildings as landmarks that create identity,
symbolise power and riches and showcase sophistication way beyond
their physical boundaries. At the moment the race to build
skyscraping towers is about prestige; but one day they may help
alleviate urban sprawl, allowing our megacities to curb their
seemingly unstoppable spread.
title of the world’s tallest building already has a new challenger;
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,
The first to top the one-kilometre mark will be Jeddah’s Kingdom Tower, due to be completed in 2019.
which is intended to be the first to reach
beyond the 1,000-metre mark. Originally, this project was aiming to
introduce yet another category following the super tall: the
mile-high building, but had to be scaled back because the soil would
not take the weight.
from the technical challenges, this category of buildings obviously
also faces financial challenges. With investments easily going beyond
$1bn, super-tall buildings aren’t usually intended to be
economically viable as stand-alone buildings but are considered as
part of a larger plan, where the signature tower adds value to a
surrounding entourage of smaller, more efficient structures.
challenges these super-tall buildings face are plentiful, requiring
enormous financial resources, sophisticated engineering skills, a
consolidated will amongst all parties involved to make it happen and
finally people willing to work, live, use and pay for them on a daily
basis. The sheer size of such projects calls for the right mix of
functions that can be economically viable within such a structure,
while the overall efficiency of the building suffers from a large
core necessary to provide sufficient space for vertical
transportation. Traditionally, the elevators needed to whisk us to
the top of our towers require heavy cables to work properly;
something which adds considerably to the building’s weight.
summer, Finnish liftmaker Kone unveiled
a new design – the Kone Ultrarope – which will shave some 60% off
the weight of the elevator infrastructure, such as cables. Seeing as
this has been one of the major factors standing in the way of
ultra-high towers, plans that were once considered unfeasible because
of weight issues may now see the light of day.
sheer size of these projects, both in terms of floor space and the
many thousands of people using them each day, pushing them
further away from being seen as buildings and towards new
territories; city within a city, a vertical city.
super-tall towers don’t typically represent companies and are no
longer mono-functional. Instead, they are frequently named after the
location they represent and come closer to the idea of a vertical
city where multitudes of functions are combined under one “roof”.
Super-tall building includes offices, hotels, apartments, retail,
entertainment and cultural venues. Hotels and apartments at a high
location within the building provide magnificent views, but proximity
to the ground has its logistic advantages too. Consequently hotels
and residential units can be found both at high and low segments.
Subway stations allow retail and other commercial elements to find
their place in the basement and first few levels above ground,
typically within a podium structure.
this is a rather typical mix for super-tall towers to date, it’s
reasonable to think ahead of what else might be part of the functions
of towers in the future. Given mankind’s increasing urbanisation,
the current division of city and agricultural land is challenged and
urban farming is becoming more widespread. It is not a great leap to
imagine the towers or tomorrow also being used to grow food; the
super-tall towers we see being built today are more likely to have
recreational green spaces at first. But the introduction of “vertical
farms” may not be far away.