Like so many of humanity's greatest accomplishments, there's very little practicality behind the world's tallest buildings. They tower over their surrounding cities as gigantic monuments to human engineering brilliance, their mind-bending heights seemingly in blatant defiance of physics. Of course, they're also the ultimate status symbol for those that go beyond mega-rich – all of these buildings could be viewed as billion-dollar phallic vanity projects, and in that regard it's interesting to note that by 2020, all the top five tallest buildings in the world will be located in status-hungry China and the ostentatious, oil-rich Middle East. Enjoy our short video presentation after the jump.

Special thanks to On The Roofs for the use of their stomach-churning video footage, as well as to Lachy Wright for his illustration and animation work.

UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS

More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.

UPGRADE

For a closer look and a few more tidbits about the world's tallest buildings, take a look through our image gallery.

View gallery - 25 images