In every period of human existence, man was driven to construct something greater than anything that had ever been seen. Wherever tall buildings are built, their creators claim it to be the center of civilization and the cutting edge of human ingenuity in design and construction. When the Great Pyramid of Giza (Egypt) was built in 2560 BC, it was the tallest construction project ever at 455 ft. Today, thanks to consistent innovation, engineers can build structures that are nearly six times as tall as the Great Pyramid. In this article, you’ll learn about the tallest buildings in the world, where and why they were constructed and what plans exist to topple even these giants.
Table of Contents
The Definition Debate – What is a Building?
When classifying buildings by height, the results changed based on what conventions and definitions are used to describe a building. The most important aspect of this debate requires us to determine the definitions of a tower, building, and structure. For example, in Poland, the Warsaw Radio Mast (WRM) was constructed in 1974, stood until 1991 and was just under 2,120.7 ft tall.
However, during this time, the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada was given the title of the world’s tallest freestanding structure, although its height was just 1,815.4 ft. The distinction here exists in the fact that the WRM was a guyed mast supported by cables and more closely fit what people would call a “tower” rather than a “building.” Nevertheless, it is clear that definitions play a significant role in how we categorize different structures and award titles like “World’s Tallest Building.”
Record Holders – The World’s Tallest Buildings
Today, the criteria are very specific for being included in the list of the world’s tallest buildings. Buildings on this list may not be supported by guy wires, by the sea, or by any other type of support. The world’s tallest freestanding structure is “the tallest self-supporting artificial structure that stands above ground.” The tallest buildings in the world are divided into four categories based on different measurement methods and requirements: height to architectural top, highest occupied floor, height to top of roof and height to tip. Based on these criteria, the world’s tallest building has changed on a regular basis since 1996.
The Willis Tower in Chicago topped three of the four categories when they were defined in 1996, with the World Trade Center building (New York) maintaining the greatest height to tip until 2001. The twin Petronas Towers in Malaysia were completed in 1998 and became the tallest buildings in the world until Taipei 101 (Taiwan) was completed in 2003. The World Financial Center in Shanghai was completed in 2008 and held the records for highest occupied floor and height to roof until 2009 when height to roof was eliminated as a standard for measuring building height because most of the tallest buildings had spires instead of a flat rooftop. In 2010, the Burj Khalifa was constructed in Dubai. With a height of 2,722 ft, the Burj Khalifa tops all four categories, including the now defunct “height to roof” category. It is also the world’s tallest freestanding structure!
The CN Tower in Toronto was constructed in 1975 and remains the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere at 1,500 ft. In third place in this category is the Ostankino Tower, constructed in Moscow in 1967. It stands at 1,772 ft tall, just a little shy of the CN Tower that was constructed eight years later.
How Long Will They Stand?
Despite its great height, the Burj Khalifa can only top the charts for so long when it comes to man’s most impressive constructions. Already, several buildings are planned and on schedule to stand even taller than this monstrosity in the next several decades. The “Burj Mubarak al-Kabir” is currently under construction in Kuwait and will stand 3,284 ft tall when it is completed in 2026. In Saudi Arabia, the Jeddah Tower will be completed by 2020 with a height of 3,280 ft. Finally, the Sky Mile Tower, to be constructed in Tokyo by 2045 will dwarf all of these, standing at a monumental 5,577 ft in height when completed.
The human race has a need to continually push the limits – to understand more and more fully what nature will allow. This compulsion is what drives innovation and spurs us to build bigger and better. We do not aim for the skies because we must, we do so because we can, and because we may.
Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt / Jorge Láscar
Burj Khalifa, Dubai / Arabian Business
Ostankino Tower, Moscow / AskIdeas
Shanghai World Financial Center / Zhu
Petronas Towers, Malaysia / World Travel Wallpapers
CN Tower, Toronto / TorontoKiosk