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The Tallest Skyscrapers

The skyscraper craze continues with the advent of technologies that allow for the construction of ever taller, stronger and lighter buildings. Skyscrapers also often reflect shifts in the global distribution of wealth and power. We wonder: Where is the world’s tallest skyscraper located?

A. Saudi Arabia
B. United Arab Emirates
C. United States
D. China

A. Saudi Arabia is not correct.

Currently, Saudi Arabia is not home to the world’s tallest skyscraper, but it could be in a couple of years’ time. By 2018, Jeddah Tower – under construction at present – might be completed.

The completion date might be pushed back to 2020 if funding issues persist. Given that state-owned enterprises are key to the project’s completion, financial pressure in the Kingdom from low oil prices might slow down construction.

If completed according to current plans, Jeddah Tower will not only become the tallest skyscraper by a wide margin, but it will reach a milestone that once seemed impossible: a full kilometer in height.

At exactly 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) tall, it will be 172 meters (564 feet) taller than the world’s currently tallest building. The building will feature a mix of residential, serviced apartments, hotel rooms and office space.

Saudi Arabia is also home to the world’s third-tallest building, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, finished in 2012. Above 120 floors of government-owned hotel space that helps accommodate Muslim pilgrims, a vast clock face looks down upon Islam’s holiest site – the Great Mosque of Mecca. A further ornamental spire above the clock brings the height to 1,972 feet (601 meters).

Altogether, as of January 2016, Saudi Arabia is home to just three of the world’s 100 tallest buildings.

B. United Arab Emirates is correct.

The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, was completed in 2010. Located in Dubai, it stands 2,717 feet (828 meters) tall, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

No skyscraper currently under construction, with the exception of Jeddah Tower, is expected to exceed the Burj Khalifa’s height.

The United Arab Emirates is also considering – but has not begun work on – another six skyscrapers within the height range of the current global top 30.

Middle Eastern investors are increasingly looking to make their mark on the West through financing construction in Europe and the United States. The Shard, a skyscraper financed mainly by a consortium of Qatari investors, was completed in 2013 in London. The 1,004-foot (306-meter) structure was briefly the tallest skyscraper in Europe, but Russia completed three taller buildings between 2013 and 2015.

C. United States is not correct.

The United States, the modern world’s pioneer in tall buildings, is no longer home to the tallest skyscraper. Completed in 2014, One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the United States — and the fourth-tallest in the world.

It is the main building in a complex of structures built on the site of the World Trade Center towers destroyed on September 11, 2001. It tops out at a symbolic 1,776 feet (541 meters), in honor of the year the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed.

As of January 2016, One World Trade Center is the only U.S. building among the top ten. Of the world’s 100 tallest buildings, the United States only has 17.

D. China is not correct.

The People’s Republic of China (including Hong Kong) is home to four of the top ten — and eight of the top 20 — tallest skyscrapers in the world.

The Shanghai Tower, the tallest skyscraper in China, was completed in 2015. It measures 2,073 feet (632 meters) in height — and is the second-tallest building in the world.

In addition, 60 of the 100 tallest buildings currently under construction are being built in China.

Taiwan’s TAIPEI 101 tower, completed in 2004, is the fifth-tallest building in the world as of January 2016. It measures 1,667 feet (508 meters) tall, or slightly more than half a kilometer.

The pre-modern world’s surviving tall structures – such as the Potala Palace in Tibet, the Jetavanaramaya temple in Sri Lanka, the Great Pyramid at Giza – top out at or below 400 feet (121 meters). The Eiffel Tower in Paris, completed in 1889, is not considered a skyscraper, but reaches 984 feet (300 meters). This tower’s 300-meter benchmark became the threshold for “supertall” structures.

The first supertall building was New York’s iconic Chrysler Building, completed in 1930, followed the next year by the Empire State Building.

A megatall building is one at least twice the height of the Eiffel Tower. There are now three completed megatall skyscrapers and four more under construction.

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