The World's Tallest Buildings Throughout History

Graphic artist and designer Martin Vargic of Halcyon Maps has created a fascinating set of infographics that showcase both the cultural typologies of each continent's architecture as well as the evolution of its tallest buildings throughout history. Exploring the progression of height differences of the tallest buildings in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, South America, and Oceania, Vargic's visually-striking charts detail 5,000 years of building history, from ancient to modern times.

Check out the charts, after the break.

Vargic's selection of each continent's tallest buildings is based on the Height to Tip measurement, defined by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) as "the level of the lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance to the highest point of the building... including antennae, flagpoles, signage, and other functional-technical equipment."


Click to enlarge image. Image © Martin Vargic


Click to enlarge image. Image © Martin Vargic

Ranging in height classification from "tall" (loosely defined as buildings that embody "tallness" based on context, proportion, or building technologies) to "megatall" (over 600 meters), buildings world-wide have been on the rise. In Vargic's charts, red silhouettes represent buildings that were once classified as the world's tallest, revealing Europe's early dominance in height from 1240 to 1890 with its climbing cathedrals.

North America

Click to enlarge image. Image © Martin Vargic

With the dawning of the 20th century, North America became home to the tallest building, following the construction of Philadelphia City Hall. For over a century, America continued to one-up its own skyscrapers, with Chicago and New York competing for the title of tallest building. The United States' reign ended in 2010 when the Burj Khalifa shifted the scales in favor of Asia.


Click to enlarge image. Image © Martin Vargic


Click to enlarge image. Image © Martin Vargic

Although it has had but one building categorized as the tallest world-wide, Africa is the continent that holds the record for keeping the "tallest building" title the longest. The Lighthouse of Alexandria was the world's tallest building for an astounding millennium and a half (from 280 BC to 1240).

South America

For official classification information of tall buildings visit the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat's website.

About this author
Cite: Holly Giermann. "The World's Tallest Buildings Throughout History" 26 Mar 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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