Saturday, 12 January 2013


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The Few, the Proud, the Super-Tall: 2012′s Largest New Skyscrapers
By Tim Maly,
Wired, 11 January 2013.

The tallest buildings completed in 2012 can tell us a lot about the state of the world.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat released their annual review this week, discussing the tallest buildings constructed in 2012. For the first time in six years, they say, the number of projects completed has gone down. Not to worry too, too much, though - much of the slowdown is from projects that saw delays pushing completion back a year or two. And with that, the CTBUH expects completed projects to rise in 2013.

Architecture is crystallized power. A constructed building, especially a spectacular one, is a record of the wealth and influence needed to complete such a project. The link between a booming economy and tall buildings is so strong that economists have proposed (somewhat jokingly) a Skyscraper Index - the idea is that when you start seeing record-breaking construction projects, you can predict a boom that's about to peak and slide into collapse.

It is interesting to look at the list if 2012's tallest new buildings and see where the architectural power exists today. The answer is a pretty even split between China and the Middle East. In fact, the tallest North American building completed comes in at 15 and it's the Trump Tower in Canada.

Falling in love with the 2012 crop of tallest buildings? The CTBUH is ready to sell you a poster.

1. The Abraj Al-Bait Towers, specifically the Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel, Mecca - 1,972 feet

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Photo: Mink/Flickr

Towering over the sacred site of the Masjid al-Haram, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower is a study in superlatives. It's the second tallest building in the world, and the tallest clock tower sporting the world's largest clock face: 141 feet in diameter. It was built as part of a project to modernize Mecca to handle the millions of pilgrims who undertake the Hajj every year.

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Photo: Wikimedia

The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage that every able-bodied Muslim is expected to do at least once in their lifetime. Men must dress only in the ihram while women are required to maintain their hijab. These simple clothes are intended to reinforce the equality of all Muslims.

According to the hotel's website, "In addition to the opulent and elegant comfort of the rooms and suites offered at this five-star hotel, 76 state-of-the-art elevators allow easy access to the holy Masjid al Haram for prayers."

2. Princess Tower, Dubai - 1,356 feet

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Photo: Tameer

Part of the art of superlatives is defining your terms carefully. The Princess Tower in Dubai is the tallest residential tower in the world. It's bizarre to imagine these record-breaking properties as places where people might just live, but according to Just Rentals, a two bedroom apartment will run you about $2,900 US per month.

3. 23 Marina, Dubai - 1,289 feet

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23 Marina lost its place as tallest residential tower shortly after construction, when the Princess Tower took up the mantle. The penthouse is available for sale on Facebook.

4. Elite Residence, Dubai - 1,248 feet

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Photo: Tameer

Dubai again.

The Elite Residence was developed by Tameer, the same firm that built the Princess Tower (second tallest building of 2012). The firm promises "a statement of luxury living in a city that has it all."

Did you know that the earliest recorded settlement in Dubai was only in 1799?

5. The Pinnacle, Guangzhou - 1,181 feet

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Photo: Wikimedia

This is our first non-middle-eastern entry and our first office tower. Get used to seeing Guangzhou in this list. As one of China's key national transportation hubs and trading ports, it's a city that's seen a lot of construction as manufacturing in the Pearl Delta region continues to expand.

6. JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai - 1,166 feet

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Dubai's current role as free trade and tourist hub is a recent transformation. In 1947, it nearly went to war with nearby Abu Dhabi; after the discovery of oil in the 1960s, the UAE was formed in 1971. Dubai's big break came after the first Gulf War. Fears of further unrest in places like Kuwait and Bahrain brought traders to the relatively stable Dubai, sparking off an incredibly rapid boom of development over the past decade that has seen multiple instances of record-breaking architecture and maniacal landscaping.

The pace of change in the region is such that the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai's website still claims it is "the world's tallest hotel."

7. Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower, Hanoi - 1,102 feet

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Photo: Wikimedia

Yes, that's right. The 7th tallest building put up this year was erected in Vietnam. The Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower is part of a complex that will be used by large companies such as telecoms giant VNPT and Vietnam's largest bank.

Vietnam has become an agricultural powerhouse. It produces 1/3 of the world's cashews and 1/3 of the world's black pepper. It is second only to Thailand in rice exports. Vietnam is also currently the third largest oil producer in Southeast Asia.

8. Pearl River Tower, Guangzhou - 1,015 feet

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Photo: heyitschili/Flickr

The Pearl River Tower has been held up as a exemplar for China's future in green skyscrapers. Designed by Chicago architect Gordon Gill, its curvy form directs wind into turbines that help power the lights.

9. Leatop Plaza, Guangzhou - 993 feet

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The Leatop Plaza is also very tall.

While Dubai's construction boom has been driving largely by oil wealth, Guangzhou's boom is driven by the larger demographic forces in China that are driving people into cities as the population urbanizes. Guangzhou is China's third largest city and as a result is feeling a great deal of that pressure.

10. Yingli International Finance Centre, Chongqing - 945 feet

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Chongqing, the largest administrative municipality in China, is in the middle of the country. Historically, because of its remote location, it was a place for weapons R&D. More recently its industrial output has diversified, though it doesn't make good for export, being so far from coastal shipping lanes. Instead, its $158.9 billion GDP goes towards making goods for domestic consumption.

[Source: Wired. Edited. Some images added.]

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1 comment:

  1. Dubai Marina is an affluent residential Apartments neighborhood known for The Beach at JBR, a leisure complex with al fresco dining and sandy stretches to relax on. Smart cafes and pop-up craft markets line waterside promenade Dubai Marina Walk


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