Chicago lays claim to the world’s first skyscraper. The 138-foot-tall Home Insurance Building was built in 1888 and was the first building to use steel beams as support. Soon after, builders in Chicago and New York were competing with each other to build the world’s tallest building.
In the early years, the world’s highest building seemed to change from week to week as architects, engineers and business magnates raced to design, build or own the biggest, best and tallest building in their city’s skyline.
It was a race that started in the United States, where the Empire State Building won the race and held the title for more than 40 years after Depression called a halt to the building boom. The US picked up the ball again in the 1970s with the construction of the World Trade Center and the Sears Tower. But in recent years, Asia has thrown its heart and soul to the race: Taipei 101 in Taiwan is currently the world’s tallest building, but Dubai’s Burj Dubai will take the title later this year. And more buildings are in the works. Here’s a look at some of the more noteworthy skyscrapers of the last 100 years or so.
30 St. Mary Axe
photo credit: .Martin.
Known in London as “The Gherkin”–also as the Erotic Gherkin, the Towering Innuendo and the Crystal Phallus–this 2004 building is London’s first environmentally sustainable skyscraper. Atria between each floor link together vertically and spiral up the building. These spaces function as the building’s lungs, distributing fresh air drawn in through panels in the facade. This system allows the building to use half the energy needed to cool conventional air-conditioned office towers.
The building sits on the site of the Baltic Exchange, which was damaged by an IRA bomb in 1992. Headquarters for Swiss Re, an insurance company, the building is 591 feet tall and covers 516,100 square feet. The top level contains a private restaurant and lounge while the landscaped plaza on the ground features numerous shops and restaurants and is open to the public.
By the numbers:
- The elevators attain speeds of more than 19 feet per second and can accommodate 378 people.
- The building’s maximum circumference is just two meters less than its height.
- 21 miles of steel and 258,333.850 square feet of glass was used in its construction.
- Each floor rotates five degrees from the one below.
20 Exchange Place
photo credit: C R
The fourth tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1931, architects Cross and Cross originally envisioned a pyramid sitting atop a 71-story structure, which would have made it the tallest building in the world–at least for a short time. But the Depression forced the builders to scale back to 56 floors and to eliminate the pyramid altogether. In June 2004, real estate developers Berman and Bruckner bought the building for $152 million. The firm is in the process of converting the top 41 floors into luxury apartments.
2 International Finance Center
photo credit: laszlo-photo
Tower 2 in this four-building complex is the seventh tallest building in the world at 415 meters, or more than 1,361 feet. The complex consists of two skyscrapers, the IFC mall and the Four Seasons Hotel.
- The complex includes three garage levels that can accommodate more than 1,800 vehicles.
- The tower is 56.960 meters wide at its base, and 39.148 meters wide at the main roof.
- The building is featured in a scene of the movie “The Dark Knight.”
- Officially, the building has 88 stories and 22 trading floors, numbers the Chinese believe to be lucky. However, two floors are missing: The 14th and the 24th, both of which are associated with death in Chinese culture.
2 Prudential Plaza
photo credit: mrkathika
Its beveled roof makes “Two Pru” instantly recognizable in the Chicago skyline. The tallest reinforced concrete building in the city was built in 1990 and designed by Stephen T. Wright of Loebl, Schlossman & Hackl. The skyscraper has 64 floors and reaches 995 feet with its spire.
photo credit: Snap?
Riyadh’s first skyscraper is part of a complex that includes a five-star hotel, a banquet hall/conference center, luxury apartments and a mall. The skyscraper is organized into three blocks that are nine, 10 and 11 stories high respectively and separated by cross beams that transfer the load of the columns onto the pillars. Offices take up the building’s first 30 floors. Inside the golden glass globe at the top of the building is a three-story restaurant. The globe is 24 meters at its diameter.
Below the plaza is a 50,000-square-foot conference and banquet center, which can be adjusted for size with removable panels. Prince Sultan’s Grand Hall, can accommodate 4,000 conference attendees or 2,800 diners.
American Radiator Building
photo credit: Doonvas
Architect Raymond Hood had been designing the company’s radiator covers when he was chosen to design the its new showroom and office tower.
The black brickwork facade and gold-painted friezes were designed to make the building look like a glowing radiator coil when illuminated at night, at least that’s one theory. Others say the architect made the bricks black so that the windows would blend in with the facade to create the illusion of a solid mass. The bricks were dipped in manganese to make them black.
The base of the structure is clad in black granite and adorned with bronze carved allegories, symbolizing the transformation of matter into energy. The black motif continued into the lobby, which was decorated with black marble and mirrors.
After remaining vacant for years, the building opened as the Bryant Park Hotel in 2001. The interior was completely changed, with black tiles and red leather replacing the lobby’s marble and mirrors. but the exterior remains the same thanks to the building’s status as a national landmark.
photo credit: Exothermic
The top of this 32-story skyscraper was supposed to look like a telephone, but the addition of a pair of illuminated spires led natives to call it the “Batman Building” because of its resemblance to the headgear worn by the caped crusader.
Baiyoke Tower II
photo credit: Khaosaming
Thailand’s tallest building contains the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, the tallest hotel in Southeast Asia and the third-tallest all-hotel structure in the world. Some fun facts:
- The hotel has 673 guest rooms.
- The Baiyoke Tower was opened in 1998.
- The building has 1,740 windowpanes.
- There are 2,060 steps from the bottom to the top.
The seventh-highest building in Texas was inspired by the architecture of the houses along the canals of the Netherlands. The red granite of the building sets it apart from its mostly blue, black and white neighbors in the Houston skyline. Completed in 1983, Bank of America Center is 56-stories high and contains 1.5 million square-feet of office space.
The Bank of America Center contains a building within a building: The two-story Western Union building, which wasn’t torn down because the electrical connections it houses.
This landmark building is actually two separate structures: The 37-story office tower sits atop a 10-story parking garage owned by the city of Miami Beach. Inside, there’s a 150-seat auditorium, an elevated Metro rail station, a gym and a restaurant. Designed by modernist master IM Pei, the building is also known for its luxurious appointments, like the gym’s mahogany lockers and the 11th-floor Sky Lobby, which is covered in marble and gold and features a 10,000-square-foot terrace with a reflecting pool.
Bank of China
photo credit: Joe Hastings
Another creation of IM Pei, whose inspiration for the tower was the structure of bamboo. Pei had two challenges to surmount when designing this project: The small lot located near a busy roadway and the constraints of feng shui:
The term means ‘wind and water’ and it has its roots in the worship of the forces of nature, which sometimes degenerated into a form of superstition. When you design buildings in Hong Kong, you cannot get away from that problem. There are specialists, feng shui masters, who advise people on all matters of things, especially on the selection of a building site; placement of the building on the site; and the shape and form of the building.
I was aware of this, but did not take it seriously. As soon as we made our design public, I was immediately attacked–just as fiercely as I was attacked for the Louvre, but for different reasons.
for instance,…(the) building had too many sharp corners (which would) bring bad luck to one’s neighbours.
Burj al Arab
photo credit: mikeakelly
Designed to look like a dhow, an Arabian ship, the building features two wings spread in a V to form a mast. The space between the wings is enclosed by a Teflon-coated fiberglass sail. The Burj al Arab is 1,052 feet high to its spire, making it the tallest hotel in the world. It rests on its own man-made island and has its own heliport.
It costs a minimum of $1,000 a night to stay in one of the hotel’s lavishly appointed 202 suites. Each suite comes with its own butler and is equipped with the latest technology, including an outside video monitoring system that allows guests to see who’s at the door and to open it without getting out of bed. Top tier rooms cost about $7,000 a night and contain even more amenities, such as private movie theaters and mosques.
- The hotel atrium is 590 feet high.
- One of the restaurants is accessible by submarine.
- Model Naomi Campbell rented out 18 floors in May 2006 to celebrate her 36th birthday. The party cost an estimated cost of $1.8 million.
Cathedral of Learning
The second tallest educational building in the world at 42 stories, 535 feet tall. the cathedral was built by University Chancellor John Bowman to be
a symbol of the life that Pittsburgh through the years had wanted to live. It was to make visible something of the spirit that was in the hearts of pioneers as, long ago, they sat in their log cabins and thought by candlelight of the great city that would sometime spread out beyond their three rivers and that even they were starting to build.
The building was completed in 1937, the heart of the Depression, with the help of contributions from people throughout the world.
The building houses the three-story, Commons Room, the University’s administrative offices, libraries, a computer center and a restaurant but it’s most famous for its Nationality Rooms–25 classrooms and two display rooms that celebrate the Pittsburgh area’s ethnic heritage.
photo credit: Martini Captures
From the steel-clad sunburst at the top of the building, to the gargoyles modeled after Chrysler hubcaps and hood ornaments, the Chrysler Building is never boring.
Neither is the story of its construction.
The building’s architect, William Van Alen and his patron Walter P. Chrysler desperately wanted the building to be the tallest in the world. After the architect of the Lincoln Building proposed building 63 stories, Van Alen redesigned the building, originally to be 57 stories, to rise to 65 stories. But Chrysler wanted more and Van Alen raised the building’s height again, going from 808 feet to 925.
Enter Van Alen’s former partner, H. Craig Severance, whose building for Manhattan Bank was going up at the same time as the Chrysler Building. When Severance finished structural work on his project, the bank building beat the automaker’s building by two feet. That’s when Van Alen unveiled his secret weapon: A 180-foot finial that builders put together secretly inside the building’s fire shaft. The day after the bank at 40 Wall Street topped out, Van Alen hoist the finial into place, making the building 1,043 feet high. Alas, the honor of world’s highest building was the Chrysler’s for less than a year: The Empire State Building took its place in 1931.
The inside of the Chrysler Building is just as impressive as the outside. Like one of Chrysler’s automobiles, the lobby is beribboned with chrome; its walls are red marble and it floor is yellow marble. Amber onyx and blue marble trim complete the look. Each of the building’s 32 elevators is covered with a different marquetry pattern made from eight rare varieties of wood from around the world. A mural, “Energy and Man’s Application of It” by Edward Turnbull, covers the lobby ceiling.
photo credit: .Martin.
The base of this skyscraper, one of its signature elements, came about as a result of the unique deal the bank made with the church that owned the corner of the lot. Citibank negotiated a deal with St Peter’s Lutheran Church to build its headquarters on the Lexington Avenue lot with the proviso that the bank pay for construction of a new church building on the corner of the lot. That led engineers to devise four 127-foot-tall supports at the mid-point of each face instead of the edge, plus a supporting core.
But there was a problem with the columns: An engineering student working on the job pointed out that the the skyscraper’s bolted joints were too weak to withstand 70-mile-per-hour winds at specific angles. If high winds were to hit the building at a 45-degree angle, the bolts holding up the columns might fail. Structural engineer William LeMessurier solved that problem by welding steel plates over the building’s 200 bolted joints.
A mass damper on the building’s unique triangular roof, also ensures the stability of the skyscraper. The damper counteracts the effects of high winds by swaying against their motion, thus reducing the effect of high winds by 50 percent.
photo credit: alexindigo
Rising 1,815 feet above land, the CN tower is currently the world’s tallest completed freestanding structure on land. The bottom of the tower is a hollow pillar containing elevators, stairwells, power and plumbing connections. On top of this is a 334.6-foot broadcast antenna. Two visitor areas are located at 1,135 feet and the 1,465 feet. On the first visitors’ level, sightseers can walk across a glass floor 113 stories above the ground. The first of its kind in the world, the glass floor is only 2 1/2 inches thick but it’s strong enough to hold up to 85,000 pounds.
The CN Tower was named one of the seven wonders of the world by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1995. Other fun facts:
- All major TV and radio stations as well as wireless service providers use the CN Tower for transmission.
- The tower weighs 130,000 tons.
- 53,000 cubic yards of concrete were used in the tower’s construction.
- 360, the tower’s 1,151-foot-high restaurant make a complete revolution every 72 minutes.
photo credit: chaouki
Europe’s tallest building from from 1997 to 2003, the Commerzbank Tower was also Europe’s first “green” skyscraper. It was planned by Frankfurt’s then-ruling Green Party.
Four-story gardens are set at different levels on each side of the tower’s triangular central atrium. The gardens bring natural light and fresh air into the building and act as a natural ventilation chimney for the inward-facing offices.
photo credit: mike (el madrile?o)
Who can picture Paris without the Eiffel Tower? Yet when the tower was built in 1889, no one thought it would be around for this long.
Originally built as the main entrance for the 1889 World?s Fair, designer Gustav Eiffel could only get a 20-year permit for the structure. At the time, many thought it was an eyesore that clashed with traditional Paris architecture. By 1909 there were calls to tear it down. Yet the tower survived to become a symbol of Paris.
Eiffel approached the military in 1901 with a view to making the Tower into a long-distance radio antenna. In 1903 a radio connection was made with the military bases around Paris, and a permanent radio station was installed in the Tower in 1906, ensuring its survival.
- The Eiffel Tower is 1,050 feet high; it was the tallest structure in the world until the Empire State Building opened in 1931.
- The tower is made from an exposed criss-cross lattice work of iron beams weighing 7,000 tons.
- The Tower has to be painted every seven years to protect the iron from deterioration. It takes 15 months, 50 tons of paint, 50 kilometers of security cords, 5 acres of protection netting, 1,500 brushes, 5,000 sanding disks, 1,500 sets of work clothes and 25 painters to paint the Tower from top to bottom.
Empire State Building
photo credit: Swami Stream
King Kong climbed it while clutching Fay Wray, space aliens decimated it and Robert Cummings saved it from destruction by the Nazis. Even if you’ve never been to the Empire State building, which ruled the sky as the world’s tallest building for 40 years, you’ve seen it in at least one of these movies:
- An Affair to Remember
- Annie Hall
- Any Wednesday
- April Fools
- Ask Any Girl
- Auntie Mame
- Bachelor Apartment
- Ball of Fire
- Bell Book and Candle
- Best of Everything
- Bright Lights, Big City
- Big City Blues
- Blackboard Jungle
- Bon Voyage
- Broadway Melody
- Butcher’s Wife
- Charlie Chan of Broadway
- Come to the Stable
- Coogan’s Bluff
- Daddy Long Legs
- Detective Story
- Easter Parade
- Edge of the City
- FBI Story
- Fine Madness
- Finian’s Rainbow
- Footlight Serenade
- French Connection I
- For Pete’s Sake
- Funny Face
- French Line
- Garment Jungle
- Guys & Dolls
- Hatful of Rain
- How to Succeed in Business
- I Take this Woman
- Independence Day
- Its Always Fair Weather
- Ivory Ape
- King of the Gypsies
- King Kong
- Kramer vs. Kramer
- Last Action Hero
- Law & Disorder
- Love With a Proper Stranger
- Lullaby of Broadway
- Man in Gray Flannel Suit
- Manhattan Melodrama
- Moon is Blue
- My Man Godfrey (Remake)
- My Sister Eileen
- New York Confidential
- New York, New York
- New York Town
- New York Stories
- North By Northwest
- Nothing Sacred
- On the Town
- On the Waterfront
- President’s Analyst
- Prisoner of Second Avenue
- Rock Around the Clock
- Safety First
- Saint in New York
- Seven Ups
- Sky’s the Limit
- Slaughter on Tenth Avenue
- Sleepless in Seattle
- So This is New York
- Stand Up and Cheer
- Street Scene
- Sunday in New York
- Superman II
- Sweet Charity
- Taxi Driver
- When Harry Met Sally
- Who Done It
- World of Henry Orient
- World Flesh & Devil
- You Gotta Stay Happy
photo credit: cwbuecheler
Built to accommodate its site at the intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue, the Flatiron building opened in 1902. At the time, some people felt that the building’s strange shape would cause it to fall over on its side; the 285-foot-high building is only six feet wide at its tip.
photo credit: azza-bazoo
The tallest building in the Rockefeller Center complex, the 70-story building is prized for its Art Deco detailing. Sculptor Lee Lawrie designed the frieze above the main entrance to the building as well as the sculpture of Atlas that sits in front of the complex’s Fifth Avenue entrance.
Picasso and Matisse were to be commissioned for artwork for the building’s lobby, but when those deals fell through artist Diego Rivera was hired to paint a mural. That work, “Man at the Crossroads” glorified the Soviet Union and featured a large portrait of Lenin; it also offended the center’s tenants. Nelson Rockefeller asked Rivera to ditch Lenin’s face, but the artist refused. So Rockefeller paid him off and eventually destroyed the work. The story was depicted in the movie “Cradle Will Rock.”
The painting was replaced by another mural, “American Progress” by Jose Maria Sert.
photo credit: midweekpost
The first New York City skyscraper to break ground after the 9/11 attacks, the Hearst Tower rises above the corporation’s 1928 headquarters. The 1928 building was commissioned by founder William Randolph Hearst who had always planned to build a tower there. In fact, the original L-shaped building was structurally reinforced for an office tower, but the depression called a halt to its construction.
The tower was built using 80 percent recycled steel and was designed to consume 25 percent less energy than conventional skyscrapers. “Icefall”, a three-story sheet of flowing water that runs through the atrium helps keep the lobby cool. A rainwater collection system keeps the water feature running.
photo credit: ** Maurice **
Chosen as the Best New Skyscraper of 2007, Het Strijkijzer pays homage to New York’s Flatiron building. The 43-story residential building was praised for
I]ts structurally expressive folded-triangle shape which responds well to its small site. The triangular shape is indented along most of its height, forming a V-shape. The building thus appears differently from every angle, yet can be recognized at once by its prominent overhanging crown.
The building contains 51 luxury apartments and 300 studios reserved for young people between ages 18 and 27.
Jin Mao Tower
photo credit: Montrasio International
The Grand Hyatt, a 555-room hotel, occupies the top 38 floors, so the building contains the world’s highest hotel rooms, and is the world’s tallest building with a hotel inside. The hotel atrium starts at the 53rd floor and extends to the 87th floor to a height of 152 meters. The world’s longest laundry chute runs down the full length of the tower to the basement.
John Hancock Center
photo credit: jordanfischer
The John Hancock Center was only the third building in the world 1,000 feet and the first outside of New York. With a giant steel tube at its core, the X-braces on the building’s exteriors eliminate the need for inner support beams and increase its usable floor area.
- The skyscraper is 40,000 square feet at the base and 18,000 square feet at the summit. This tapered design provides additional structural stability against wind forces.
- The country’s highest indoor swimming pool is located on the 44th floor of the building.
- The observation floor features a screened-in area called the Skywalk that’s the highest balcony in America.
- Jerry Springer and comedian Chris Farley were next door neighbors on the 60th floor until Farley’s death in 1987.
The tallest building between Chicago and Hong Kong at a height of 1,017 feet, this skyscraper is designed to resist an earthquake of 8.3 on the Richter scale. The building has has 73 aboveground stories and two below ground parking levels and a total of 1.43 million square feet of office and retail space. A series of overlapping spiraling cubes creates a building that is both circular and square–and provides a multitude of profitable “corner offices.” The world’s highest helipad sits on the roof of the structure, which opened in 1989 .
photo credit: loop_oh
The second-tallest building in the European Union holds the record for the longest continuous concrete pour; 240 workers poured 22,200 cubic yards of concrete from 90 trucks using four pumps in a three-day operation for the foundation.
NTT DoCoMo Yoyogi Building
photo credit: mrhayata
Featuring the world’s tallest clock tower at 787 feet, the building houses the base station and switching equipment for the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Company’s cellular phone service. The tower was built with an eye toward conserving energy through the use of solar power. Waste water is recycled for reuse and rainwater is used for toilet flushing.
Until this skyscraper was built in 1987, Philadelphia developers followed an unwritten rule that no building should reach higher than William Penn’s hat on top of City Hall. Since the rule was breached, none of the city’s sports teams have won a championship, a phenomenon Philadelphians attribute to the curse of Billy Penn, which is kind of a second cousin to Boston’s famed Curse of the Bambino.
Palace of Culture and Science
photo credit: Jarosław Pocztarski
A relic of the Iron Curtain, this was Poland’s most detested building during the Cold War. Originally the Josef Stalin Palace of Science and Culture, the building was a “gift of Stalin to to the Polish people.” When Khrushchev took over the USSR and “destalinized,” all references to Stalin were cleansed from the building.
But to Poles it still served as a symbol of Soviet domination. Many Poles also objected to the structure on aesthetic grounds; they called it “an elephant in lacy underwear” and the “Russian wedding cake” because of the 560 ornamental sculptures adorning the building. Shortly after its 1955 opening, only those with a pass could enter the building, further alienating the Polish people who joked that the best views of Warsaw could be seen from inside the palace because it was the only place in the city where you couldn’t see the building.
Although there was talk about razing the building after the Berlin Wall fell, the building remains and Polish attitudes toward it have softened.
photo credit: lrargerich
The first buildings outside the United States to win the coveted “world’s tallest” designation, the Petronas Towers are 88 stories high and feature a pedestrian bridge at the 41st and 42nd floors that links the two stories.
The building’s “world’s tallest” designation was not without controversy as both the Sears Tower and the World Trade Center were 110 stories high when the Petronas opened for business. But according to the rules of the game, the addition of a 241-foot spire put the Malaysian building in first place.
In fact, the spires play an essential role in the aesthetics of the towers. Designed to look like minarets, they complete the developer’s vision of a modern building based on traditional Islamic elements. That vision begins with the footprints of the towers–two eight-point stars constructed of interconnected squares that evoke the arabesques of traditional Islamic art and architecture.
- At 170 meters, the skybridge between the two towers is the highest such bridge in the world. The bridge is 58 meters long and weighs 750 tons.
- It takes window washers a month to wash the windows of each tower, which have a combined total of 32,000 windows.
- Each tower was built by a different company; Tower I was built by Japan’s Hazama Corporation, while Samsung Construction and Kukdong Engineering & Construction of South Korea built the second.
- The towers contain more than eight million square feet of offices, shops and entertainment facilities, underground parking for 4,500 cars, a petroleum museum, a symphony hall, a mosque, and a conference center.
- The buildings sit on the world’s deepest foundation–120 meters.
photo credit: Tengis
Italy’s first and tallest skyscraper stands on the site of the first Pirelli tire factory. The first building in Milan that was taller than the Madonnina statue on the highest spire of the cathedral, Duomo di Milano, a small statue of the Virgin Mary sits atop the modernist structure as a mark of respect to the cathedral.
Standing astride the Paseo de la Castellana,these twin towers are the world’s first leaning high-rise buildings. To distinguish the two buildings, the helipad on the roof of Tower I is blue, while the helipad on Tower II is red. The first building is also a centimeter taller than the second.
photo credit: mugley
The tallest office building in the Southern Hemisphere consists of two adjoining towers–a 63-story main tower with a 43-story wing. The 1,450 steps to the top of the building are the site for a yearly Run Up race.
This 1,093-foot tall building was slated to open in April 2008, but that has been delayed. When the building does open for business as the Rose Rotana Suites, it will be the world’s tallest hotel, beating out the Burj al Arab by 20 meters.
The first building in San Francisco to have an indoor parking garage, the Russ Building was the tallest building in that city from 1927 to 1964. It has such a prominent place in the heart of the city’s financial district that for years it was known simply as “the skyscraper.” The neo-Gothic structure is a California State Historic Landmark. It’s known for its exquisite interior of granite floors and marble wainscoting.
photo credit: stevecadman
Named the millennium’s most important building by New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp, the 1958 building was designed by Ludqig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson.
Set on bronze-clad pillars, the 38-story facade consists of alternating bands of bronze plating and thick brown-tinted glass. A triumph of the International Style, it was the first building with floor-to-ceiling windows, an idea Mies himself espoused as early as the 1920s.
It was the world’s most expensive building upon completion because of the materials used and the architect’s decision to sacrifice rentable office space in favor of building a large plaza at the building’s base.
Within the building is the Four Season’s Restaurant, which was designed by Johnson and whose design and decor remain unchanged since the restaurant’s 1959 opening. It has since been named an interior landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
photo credit: KM Photography..
The world’s tallest building from 1974 to 1998 reaches 1,451 feet to its roof and 1,725 feet with its antennas.
The superstructure consists of a bundle of nine interlocking tubes that terminate at different heights. As the building climbs upward, the tubes begin to drop off, reducing the wind forces on the building. The configuration was pioneered by Fazlur R. Khan. It allowed for large open office spaces on the lower levels and smaller floor plates on the upper levels with unobstructed views.
- The Tower weighs more than 440 million pounds.
- 2.5 million cubic feet of concrete were used during construction.
- The building’s facade has been climbed twice: by Dan Goodwin in 1981 and by Alain Robert in 1999.
- On a clear day, you can see Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan from the Skydeck.
- The Skydeck attracts 1.5 million visitors a year.
photo credit: ninjawil
It is known as “the oldest skyscraper city in the world” and “the Manhattan of the Desert.” Shibam is an ancient walled city of five- to nine-story mud brick towers that date back to the 16th Century. They were built to resist attacks by Bedouin invaders who coveted the city’s stores of frankincense and myrrh.
The bricks become gradually smaller for the higher floors. Which means the building walls gradually become thinner, forming a trapezium shape. The walls are thinner on higher floors to reduce the pressure on lower floors, making the building strong and stable. Each building is usually occupied by one family which uses the 3rd floor up as its residence. The 1st and 2nd floors are often used to store food and as a stable for livestock. People kept cattle inside their homes to live through times when the town was under attack. The earthen houses stay cool inside despite the heat outside.
Inhabited since the Third Century AD, Shibam was the capitol of the ancient Hadramawt Kingdom.
photo credit: Piutus
Like the Eiffel Tower, the Space Needle was built for the World’s Fair. A space-age structure was chosen to go along with the 1962 fair’s theme, Century 21.
By the numbers:
- There are 848 steps from the bottom of the basement to the top of the Observation Deck.
- The foundation weighs 5,850 tons and there are 250 tons of reinforcing steel in the foundation.
- The Needle weighs alone 3,700 tons.
- The center of gravity for the Space Needle is 5 feet above the ground.
- The Space Needle is fastened to its foundation with 72 bolts, each 30 feet in length.
- The Space Needle is 605 feet high and 138 feet wide at its widest point
- It is built to withstand winds of up to 200 miles per hour.
- The Space Needle was designated as an official historic landmark in 1999.
photo credit: AllenHo
The world’s tallest completed building will likely lose that designation this year with the opening of Burj Dubai. Taipei 101 was the first tallest building to be built in this century.
The building is 1,671 feet tall, has 101 floors and boasts the world’s fastest elevators, which rise at 1008 meters per minute and descend at 610 meters per minute.
State-of-the-lifting-art permanent magnet synchronous motors power the tower’s system, and are smaller and produce more torque than conventional motors. High-strength steel hoist ropes with solid steel cores were developed to limit stretching and improve wear. Because braking temperatures would melt bronze safety shoes, designers specified ceramic shoes.
Surprisingly, achieving the height and speed required for Taipei 101 was the easy part. The real challenge was the human factor. To hold down noise–for those in the building, as well as in the elevators–the observation-deck shuttles are shaped like twin-nosed bullets, reducing aerodynamic drag, what is known in the trade as windage. They’re equipped with sound-isolation shrouds, acoustic tiles and isolated floor platforms. Even the counterweights are aerodynamic.
Time Warner Center
photo credit: Matthew Black
The two towers and concourse at Columbus Circle house Manhattan?s largest food market, the Mandarin Oriental hotel, offices for CNN, condos, a jazz center, a gym, seven restaurants and dozens of shops. Ricky Martin lives in one of the condos as does Mexican financier David Martinez, who paid $54.7 million for a penthouse apartment.
The towers are 750 feet tall with 55 floors.
Mexico City’s oldest skyscraper, Torre Latinoamericano was South America’s tallest building when it was completed in 1956.
The building received the American Association of Construction and Engineering Prize of Merit for “the tallest building ever exposed to a huge seismic force” after surviving an earthquake in 1957. The building also withstood an even deadlier earthquake in September 1985 that destroyed many other downtown buildings.
photo credit: nor?cal?jeff
The iconic Transamerica Pyramid is to the San Francisco skyline what the Eiffel Tower and Space Needle are to Paris and Seattle: Instantly recognizable symbols on the cities they tower over. he shape of the building was chosen because its tapered design casts a smaller shadow and allows more natural light to filter down to the streets below than conventional high-rises.
- The building’s facade is covered in crushed quartz, giving the building its pure white color.
- Pyramid architect William Pereira shared an Academy Award for best special effects for his work on the 1942 film “Reap the Wild Wind.”
- The Pyramid Center sits on the site of the former Montgomery Block, the tallest building in the West when it was built in 1853, and the City’s first fireproof and earthquake-resistant building.
- When The Pyramid’s construction began in 1969, signs around the site proclaimed it “a San Francisco landmark since 1972.”
- The largest floor is the 5th, at 21,025 square feet and the 48th floor is the smallest, 2,025 square feet.
Tuntex 85 Sky Tower
The shape of Taiwan’s second tallest building is based on the Chinese character Kao, which means tall and is the first character in the city’s name. With 85-floors, Tuntex Sky Tower is 1,240 feet high with its spire. The building houses a department store, offices, private apartments, a hotel and an observation deck.
photo credit: borya
Architect Santiago Calatrava based the shape of this Swedish building on his sculpture, “Twisting Torso” for which he set seven cubes around a steel support to produce a spiral structure that twists like a human spine.
The building consists of nine five-story cubes that twist as the building rises so that the top box is twisted 90 degrees from the ground floor box. The two lowest cubes contain offices and the two highest house a conference center. The rest of the building is apartments, each with a different floor plan, and modern furniture and consumption monitor that allows residents to control their energy costs.
United Nations Secretariat
photo credit: Pro-Zak
Based on a plan submitted to the UN’s Board of Design by modernist master Le Corbusier, the UN building was New York’s first major skyscraper built in the International style.
The north and south facades are covered with marble, while the east and west facades are all-glass curtains. The blue-green-toned Thermopane windows, designed to lessen the effects of heat from the sun, are bordered by glass spandrels painted black on the inside. Air conditioning grilles on the 6th, 16th, 28th and 39th floors, extend the whole width of the facade
The tallest all-glass building in the Western Hemisphere survived a 1983 hurricane with minimal damage–unlike neighboring skyscrapers. Locals claim that 992-foot-high building’s footprint was designed to look from the air like a dollar sign. The architect, Richard Keating ,says not.
photo credit: Dhanix
photo credit: Helico
The Cathedral of Commerce has a cruciform floor plan,and a Romanesque lobby with barrel-vaulted ceilings. Outside and in, it’s covered with gothic details–gargoyles, arches, flying buttresses and stained glass. It also had the highest office space to elevator space ratio for any building at the time of its completion, making it very profitable.
Paid for with cash in 1913 by original owner Frank W. Woolworth, the Woolworth building never had a mortgage until the building changed hands 85 years later.
World Trade Center
April 4, 1973-September 11, 2001
photo credit: pingnews.com
Terrorists flew two planes into the Twin Towers on the morning of September 11, 2001, destroying all of the complex’s seven buildings and killing almost 3,000 people. Plans are underway for a new complex, which will include five new skyscrapers, a museum and memorial to September 11, a retail complex and a performing arts center.
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