Architecture

State of the Game: The world's tallest buildings, now and in 2020

State of the Game: The world's...
The Kingdom Tower - pet project of the richest Arab in the middle east, a Saudi prince.
The Kingdom Tower - pet project of the richest Arab in the middle east, a Saudi prince.
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The Kingdom Tower - at 1,007 metres high, this will be the world's tallest building in 2020.
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The Kingdom Tower - at 1,007 metres high, this will be the world's tallest building in 2020.
The Kingdom Tower - pet project of the richest Arab in the middle east, a Saudi prince.
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The Kingdom Tower - pet project of the richest Arab in the middle east, a Saudi prince.
The Kingdom Tower - originally planned to be 1600 metres tall, almost twice the height of the Burj Khalifa, so it could be called the Mile High Tower. Unfortunately the ground beneath the structure couldn't support that large of a building.
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The Kingdom Tower - originally planned to be 1600 metres tall, almost twice the height of the Burj Khalifa, so it could be called the Mile High Tower. Unfortunately the ground beneath the structure couldn't support that large of a building.
The Kingdom Tower - rooms will offer views of Jeddah and the Red Sea.
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The Kingdom Tower - rooms will offer views of Jeddah and the Red Sea.
The Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world today.
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The Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world today.
The Burj Khalifa - the ultimate symbol of excess in Dubai.
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The Burj Khalifa - the ultimate symbol of excess in Dubai.
The Burj Khalifa - 828 metres high should give you a heck of a view through the clean desert air - there's almost nothing around it.
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The Burj Khalifa - 828 metres high should give you a heck of a view through the clean desert air - there's almost nothing around it.
The Burj Khalifa looks almost surreal as you fly into the city of Dubai.
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The Burj Khalifa looks almost surreal as you fly into the city of Dubai.
The Shanghai Tower - the current #2 largest building in the world at 632 metres. It dwarfs the Shanghai World Financial Centre, the bottle-opener shaped building beside it, which was the second tallest building in the world back in 2010.
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The Shanghai Tower - the current #2 largest building in the world at 632 metres. It dwarfs the Shanghai World Financial Centre, the bottle-opener shaped building beside it, which was the second tallest building in the world back in 2010.
The Shanghai Tower - doesn't need to use reflective glass to control temperature, because it's got two layers of clear glass between 1 and 10 metres apart all the way up. It acts like a giant thermos flask.
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The Shanghai Tower - doesn't need to use reflective glass to control temperature, because it's got two layers of clear glass between 1 and 10 metres apart all the way up. It acts like a giant thermos flask.
The Abraj Al-Bait hotel, with its mammoth clock tower, is the third tallest building in the world today.
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The Abraj Al-Bait hotel, with its mammoth clock tower, is the third tallest building in the world today.
The Abraj Al-Bait hotel - overlooks Mecca, the most sacred site in Islam. Every able-bodied Muslim is obliged to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.
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The Abraj Al-Bait hotel - overlooks Mecca, the most sacred site in Islam. Every able-bodied Muslim is obliged to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.
The Abraj Al-Bait hotel - this enormous complex is capable of accommodating up to 100,000 people at a time.
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The Abraj Al-Bait hotel - this enormous complex is capable of accommodating up to 100,000 people at a time.
Taipei 101 - Currently the 5th tallest building in the world, it stands in an area that's prone to earthquakes and typhoons.
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Taipei 101 - Currently the 5th tallest building in the world, it stands in an area that's prone to earthquakes and typhoons.
One World Trade Center - rising from the ashes of the September 11 attacks that destroyed the original World Trade Center's twin towers, the new building stands 541.3 metres tall.
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One World Trade Center - rising from the ashes of the September 11 attacks that destroyed the original World Trade Center's twin towers, the new building stands 541.3 metres tall.
One World Trade Center - the American Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, so this building was designed to be 1776 feet tall as a symbolic measure.
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One World Trade Center - the American Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, so this building was designed to be 1776 feet tall as a symbolic measure.
One World Trade Center - the new pride of New York City is some 141 metres taller than the previous WTC buildings.
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One World Trade Center - the new pride of New York City is some 141 metres taller than the previous WTC buildings.
Taipei 101 - uses a gigantic ball-shaped counterweight at the top of the building as a vibration damper in high winds or earthquake situations.
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Taipei 101 - uses a gigantic ball-shaped counterweight at the top of the building as a vibration damper in high winds or earthquake situations.
Taipei 101 - designed to mimic the segmented structure of bamboo, it stands 509 metres high.
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Taipei 101 - designed to mimic the segmented structure of bamboo, it stands 509 metres high.
The Wuhan Greenland Center is set to open in 2017, at a height of 606 metres.
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The Wuhan Greenland Center is set to open in 2017, at a height of 606 metres.
The KL118 tower is currently under construction in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Standing across from the famous Petronas Towers, it will open in 2019 at 610 metres tall, and enjoy a brief spot in the top 5.
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The KL118 tower is currently under construction in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Standing across from the famous Petronas Towers, it will open in 2019 at 610 metres tall, and enjoy a brief spot in the top 5.
The KL118 tower is currently under construction in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Standing across from the famous Petronas Towers, it will open in 2019 at 610 metres tall, and enjoy a brief spot in the top 5.
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The KL118 tower is currently under construction in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Standing across from the famous Petronas Towers, it will open in 2019 at 610 metres tall, and enjoy a brief spot in the top 5.
The Ping An Finance Center, currently under construction in China. It will open in 2016 at a height of 660 metres.
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The Ping An Finance Center, currently under construction in China. It will open in 2016 at a height of 660 metres.
The Ping An Finance Center will open in Shenzhen, China, next year.
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The Ping An Finance Center will open in Shenzhen, China, next year.
The Suzhou Zhongnan Centre will be the world's third tallest building when it opens in 2020. It's estimated to be a US$4.5 billion dollar project.
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The Suzhou Zhongnan Centre will be the world's third tallest building when it opens in 2020. It's estimated to be a US$4.5 billion dollar project.
View gallery - 25 images

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.

The World's Tallest Buildings

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.

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
6 comments
Milton
Thanks for the awesome video guys!
Derek Howe
That Kingdom tower looks awesome. It's like a giant knife stabbing the crap outta the sky!
Jayna Sheats
Pre-fabricated sections or not, I'm not sure I want to stay in a building in earthquake country that was built in 90 days.
FrankenPC
Taking bets on which mega structure is the first to crumble in an epic disaster.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
R.H. Sailors on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo. was going to be the world's tallest building but they first took 30 floors off, then aborted the project. Before that, the KCMO TV tower was the world's tallest self supporting tower. I watched it go up section by section from the George B. Longin school playground in 1956.
Mark Salamon
"there's very little practicality behind the world's tallest buildings... all of these buildings could be viewed as billion-dollar phallic vanity projects..."
Absolutely. It strikes me that the motivation for raising these structures ever higher is the same crudely anatomical measuring game that men have been playing for roughly the last 100,000 years (or longer): "Mine is bigger than yours." No doubt there are far better investments for the huge amounts of cash being spent, which is just another way of stating an old proverb: "Some guys have more money than sense..."