In the modern era of design where advancements in technology and construction have enabled architects to build better, faster, and taller, the sky’s the limit. Every few months, another headline boasts the tallest residential tower or the newly constructed office building that breaks yet another record for its impressive height. But as time goes on and new projects are completed, trends show that the United States is falling out of the spotlight in terms of being able to claim the title of world’s tallest building, and the drawing boards show that no American city will be reclaiming this title any time soon.
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What do you think the North American, Asian and Western European tall building communities most need to learn from each other? This is precisely what the Center on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) sat down to ask five leading architects, whose responses formed an eclectic and meaningful overview on the state of tall building worldwide. As Rem Koolhaas noted, each region has their own journey that is worth understanding, such as the Arab world’s transition from “extravagance to rationality” or Asia’s hyper-focus on project realization. But, as James Goettsch points out, “not every building has to be something remarkable." It’s alright for some buildings to be nothing more than “good citizens.”
Ever expanding population growth coupled with the continuous development of urban centres mean that buildings, in general, will continue to get taller. With the topping out of One World Trade Centre in May this year the worldwide competition to construct towers with soaring altitudes doesn’t seem to be slowing, especially in China and the UAE. The question on many people’s lips, however, is how much of these colossal buildings is actual usable space?
Elevators have been around for quite a long time; maybe not those that soar to hundreds of feet in a matter of seconds, but the primitive ancestors of this technology, often man-powered, were developed as early as the 3rd century BC. These early wheel and belt operated platforms provided the lift that would eventually evolve into the “ascending rooms” that allow supertall skyscrapers (above 300 meters) to dominate skylines in cities across the world. Elevators can be given credit for a lot of progress in architecture and urban planning. Their invention and development allowed for the building and inhabiting of the structures we see today.
Supertall skyscrapers are becoming more common as cities and architects race to the top of the skyline, inching their way further up into the atmosphere. These buildings are structural challenges as engineers must develop building technologies that can withstand the forces of high altitudes and tall structures. But what of the practical matter of moving through these buildings? What does it mean for vertical conveyance? How must elevators evolve to accommodate the practical use of these supertall structures?
Every January the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat conducts a review of skyscraper construction and compiles all the data from the previous year. The trend since 2007 has seen record breaking years for buildings taller than 200 meters completed, with 88 skyscrapers completed in 2011. Even as the global economy is slowly recuperating from the 2008 financial crisis, it would appear as though this trend will remain relatively stable. China, leading the pack at 23 completed towers is predicted to remain at the forefront of skyscraper market, followed by Middle Eastern countries in the next decade. UAE, South Korea, and Panama City – an up and coming cosmopolitan city – rounded out the top four. Of the towers completed in 2011, 17 have made their way into the top 100 tallest buildings – Shenzhen’s Kingkey 100, at 442 meters crowning this year’s list. More after the break.