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Old April 16th, 2007, 12:29 PM   #1
hkskyline
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Asia's Quest for the Ultra-Skyscraper

Asia March 14, 2007, 6:31AM EST text size: TT
Asia's Quest for the Ultra-Skyscraper
Wealth, growth, and the desire to make a mark are spurring cities to build ever higher power-towers—and reshaping architectural design in the process

by Brian Bremner

Scientists haven't isolated the "trophy tower" gene just yet. But there is something almost primal about the century-plus quest by some mega-ambitious cities to build the ultimate, record-busting, flat-out tallest skyscraper on the planet. The old power-tower rivalry early last century between New York and Chicago is legendary. Now the obsession to build mega-structures in nose-bleed territory has gripped much of Asia.

True, oil-rich countries in the Middle East have their living-large dreams, too, and there is one mind-blowing project now under way in Dubai. Still, the betting is that Asian cities likely will transform 21st-century skyscraper architecture in the biggest way. Currently eight of the world's 10 tallest skyscrapers are in the region. And the present reigning champ among skyscrapers globally is Taiwan's Taipei 101, a structure that soars 509 meters, or 1,671 ft.

On top of that, there is the right combination of high-speed growth, accumulated wealth and power tower-obsessed politicians from Kuala Lumpur to Shanghai that will keep the boom going for many years to come. Even lesser-known regional cities that have a burning ambition to make their mark view big, gutsy, and distinctively designed skyscrapers as potential game-changers—and are willing to offer serious incentives to make them happen.

Boon for Builders
That's pretty much what city leaders in the South Korean port city of Busan (formerly known as Pusan) hope to accomplish with the planned 560-meter (1,837-ft.) Millennium Tower World Business Center that is expected to be completed in 2010 or 2011. And this will be no bland, monolithic building.

New York-based Asymptote Architecture, which won an international design competition for a project that will result in the tallest building in Asia, came up with a concept that features three tapered towers emerging from a powerful base of floors offering stunning ocean and mountain views. "They were looking for something bold," says Hani Rashid, a principal architect with Asymptote. "We actually went in and tried to do something more reflective, to reset the game in terms of this tower mania" in Asia.

Whether the Millennium Tower in Busan (a city also hoping to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games) results in a huge economic lift is uncertain. But plenty of cities in Asia are definitely willing to roll the dice, and that is sweet news for international architectural firms and general contractors alike. "The market outlook for ultra-high buildings in the region is pretty bright," says Kang Sun Jong, vice-president in charge of architectural design and consulting at Samsung Corp.

Temporarily on Top
There is also, of course, a super-size building boom now raging in parts of the Middle East such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. In fact, Samsung snagged the construction work for the monstrously high Burj Dubai, a tower complex slated to reach 800 meters (2624 ft.) in height and easily blow by Taipei 101 as the world's tallest building when it is completed in late 2008. (It was designed by the U.S. architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.)

Yet if recent history is any judge, the pride of ownership for a city that manages to get one of these ultra-high towers off the ground will be fleeting. Consider: New York's fabled Empire State Building, finished in 1931, held the world record for height for more than 40 years, while Chicago's Sears Tower, completed in 1973, had a 25-year run.

These days, cities are lucky to hold the title for a half-decade. The 452-meter (1,483-ft.) Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, built in 1998, were eclipsed by Taipei 101 just six years later. The Taiwanese are going to lose their title after only four years when Burj Dubai opens its doors.

Lofty Shanghai
Some argue that the economic development boost a city ultimately garners from a successful mega-structure is far more important than whether it is the world's tallest or not. The Petronas Towers "may no longer be the tallest building in the world, but it changed Malaysia and the perception of Kuala Lumpur" worldwide, says Goh Tuan Sui, chief executive of property consultancy WTW Malaysia. "A world-class building can also raise the bar for other buildings in the city, be it malls, office blocks, or hotels," he adds.

When it comes to sheer scale of tall building construction activity, it's hard to match Shanghai. Since 1990, the city has erected enough high-rises to fill a big chunk of Manhattan (see Businessweek.com, 2/8/07, "Shanghai Rising").

The 88-story Jin Mao Tower, with its distinctive tiered pagoda design, is the tallest building in China, rising to 421 meters (1,380 ft.). Or at least it will be until the Shanghai World Financial Center (492 meters, or 1,614 ft.) is completed in 2008.

Supply Shortage
So is the current wave of next-generation skyscrapers starting to hit the limits of modern-day construction engineering and material science? Rashid with Asymptote Architecture doesn't think so given new construction materials coming on stream, advances in computer-aided building design, and the increasing use of robotic technology in building. "There are new materials emerging that could replace steel," he says.

Probably the biggest challenge for general contractors at the moment is getting their hands on needed engineering and construction talent, and even some basic construction materials, in a timely fashion given the construction boom in Asia and the Middle East. "So many projects are being undertaken at the same time that securing in-time delivery of construction materials has emerged as a challenging task," Samsung's Kang says in reference to the Burj Dubai project.

No doubt some ambitious city planner or real estate developer in Asia will be sketching the outlines for another sky-hugger to overtake the Burj Dubai and grab tallest building honors before too long.
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Old April 16th, 2007, 01:10 PM   #2
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The supertall trend of the late 20th to early 21st century has always been in Asia.

HK has been a city of skyscrapers in this region but never has built the world's tallest. After the ICC, I doubt HK will build something taller.

Other major Asian cities has at least one skyscraper at 1000 ft or around that height such as Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Bangkok. Other Asian cities such as Seoul, Busan, Manila and Chongqing are building supertalls as well.
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Old April 16th, 2007, 07:03 PM   #3
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Back in the 1990s, the focus was on East Asia, notably China. Chongqing was planning to build the world's tallest back in the mid 1990s. Now, the focus has moved westward to the Middle East, specifically Dubai.
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Old April 17th, 2007, 01:11 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
Back in the 1990s, the focus was on East Asia, notably China. Chongqing was planning to build the world's tallest back in the mid 1990s. Now, the focus has moved westward to the Middle East, specifically Dubai.
Hopefully we will see it shift again, this time to south asia. Very possible as their cities are booming and all the countries have high population densities.
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Old April 17th, 2007, 03:58 AM   #5
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Asia is obviously obsessed with constructing tall skyscrapers, I would not doubt their ability and determination. I'm sure we'll see plenty of monolithic structures spawning from Asia within the next 10-20 years at a rapid rate.

Of course they have Dubai to compete with if they want the world's tallest, but you never know, perhaps Dubai has some mean competition.
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Old April 17th, 2007, 06:08 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
Back in the 1990s, the focus was on East Asia, notably China. Chongqing was planning to build the world's tallest back in the mid 1990s. Now, the focus has moved westward to the Middle East, specifically Dubai.
What happened to the Chongqing plan? There was also a supertall planned for Kaohsiung but was never built.

For now its The Middle East especially Dubai. But I think it will shift back to Asia.

Tokyo would have given Dubai some competition if it built their visionary skyscrapers. The Millennium Tower has the same height as The Burj Dubai. Other than that, there are other visionary skyscrapers planned for Tokyo but were never implemented.
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Old April 17th, 2007, 06:24 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by WANCH View Post
What happened to the Chongqing plan? There was also a supertall planned for Kaohsiung but was never built.

For now its The Middle East especially Dubai. But I think it will shift back to Asia.

Tokyo would have given Dubai some competition if it built their visionary skyscrapers. The Millennium Tower has the same height as The Burj Dubai. Other than that, there are other visionary skyscrapers planned for Tokyo but were never implemented.

Asia has seen a whole bunch of plans and they're not always carried out. Japan, in particular, has seen a whole bunch of visionary skyscrapers, but that is quite consistent with their historic research efforts to efficiently use land. Economic feasibility rendered these proposals useless. Meanwhile, China is trying to curb an overheating economy and property market, so there are restrictions in infrastructure and skyscraper projects these days, which is quite evident in the slowing rate of large projects being announced lately. Chongqing's world's tallest proposal was scrapped years ago.

In light of China's situation these days, I doubt the skyscraper frenzy will move back east any time soon. A potential hard landing in China is a major concern not only domestically, but also internationally. Beijing so far hasn't been too successful in slowing the economy despite a number of measures.
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Old April 17th, 2007, 09:17 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
Asia has seen a whole bunch of plans and they're not always carried out. Japan, in particular, has seen a whole bunch of visionary skyscrapers, but that is quite consistent with their historic research efforts to efficiently use land. Economic feasibility rendered these proposals useless. Meanwhile, China is trying to curb an overheating economy and property market, so there are restrictions in infrastructure and skyscraper projects these days, which is quite evident in the slowing rate of large projects being announced lately. Chongqing's world's tallest proposal was scrapped years ago.

In light of China's situation these days, I doubt the skyscraper frenzy will move back east any time soon. A potential hard landing in China is a major concern not only domestically, but also internationally. Beijing so far hasn't been too successful in slowing the economy despite a number of measures.
Looks like The Middle East is where the supertalls are happening especially Dubai.

But it's not just China planning supertalls. South Korea had some supertalls planned especially in Seoul and Busan.
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Old April 17th, 2007, 11:25 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WANCH View Post
Looks like The Middle East is where the supertalls are happening especially Dubai.

But it's not just China planning supertalls. South Korea had some supertalls planned especially in Seoul and Busan.
Seoul's projects are more one-offs than trends. China for a while had a decade-long trend of building taller and taller districts, not just individual buildings (Tianhe, Futian, and Pudong). Dubai seems to be following that trend.
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Old April 18th, 2007, 12:21 AM   #10
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I agree, tallest tower and biggest mall...it's all good publicity for a city.
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Old April 18th, 2007, 05:32 AM   #11
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that's all at the Burj Dubai
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Old April 18th, 2007, 07:15 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WANCH View Post

HK has been a city of skyscrapers in this region but never has built the world's tallest. After the ICC, I doubt HK will build something taller.
I'd rather HK build itself up in Kowloon before it builds something taller. HK doesn't need the title of world's tallest to have a spectacular skyline, a lone 1,500 ft monster doesn't make up for the lack of a skyline

Anyway, good news for me, I love huge towers.
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Old April 18th, 2007, 11:41 AM   #13
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I'd rather HK build itself up in Kowloon before it builds something taller. HK doesn't need the title of world's tallest to have a spectacular skyline, a lone 1,500 ft monster doesn't make up for the lack of a skyline

Anyway, good news for me, I love huge towers.
I more than agree that HK doesn't need the world's tallest not it should build one.

HK had the tallest in Asia title (Central Plaza) during the early 90s and that's enough.
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Old April 18th, 2007, 11:49 AM   #14
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I more than agree that HK doesn't need the world's tallest not it should build one.

HK had the tallest in Asia title (Central Plaza) during the early 90s and that's enough.
The only need is an economical one, not a title. Hong Kong's developers are very practical. As they run on a for-profit business model, the skyscrapers that pop up will ought to pay back within a reasonable amount of time. Whether they are the tallest in the world or not isn't the biggest concern they have when they draft a development plan.

Notable exception was Nina Tower, but that project had to be shortened because of aviation safety.
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Old April 23rd, 2007, 09:22 AM   #15
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The only need is an economical one, not a title. Hong Kong's developers are very practical. As they run on a for-profit business model, the skyscrapers that pop up will ought to pay back within a reasonable amount of time. Whether they are the tallest in the world or not isn't the biggest concern they have when they draft a development plan.

Notable exception was Nina Tower, but that project had to be shortened because of aviation safety.
Nina Tower was supposed to be the world's tallest. But even the one built is still over 300 metres.
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Old April 23rd, 2007, 09:48 AM   #16
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Nina Tower was supposed to be the world's tallest. But even the one built is still over 300 metres.
Nina Tower's symbolism is not as much economic to show off Chinachem's status, but rather a personal one. Nina Wang wanted the world's tallest building, and had her name on it. Otherwise it would've borne Chinachem's name on it. That's the exception I'm talking about.
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Old November 28th, 2007, 10:19 AM   #17
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Cities on speed make icons of skylines
27 November 2007
Financial Times

The construction boom in China has led to all kinds of seemingly apocryphal stories about a shortage of tower cranes and about the prices of steel and concrete going through the roof. The thing is, they turn out not to be apocryphal.

Hong Kong already has nearly 50 per cent more skyscrapers than the city we all still think of as the spiritual home of extruded architecture, New York. Only one of the world's top 10 tallest buildings is now in the US - Chicago's Sears Tower.

Asia's skylines have become the laboratories of architecture. The freedom, speed and volume of development are giving architects the chance to make real and radical innovations.

There has probably never been a time quite like this: horizons are changing by the day, as cities on speed attempt to define themselves through architecture, to create icons of their own skylines.

The closest historical parallel is the competition between New York and Chicago, as each tried to outbuild the other. But the geographical spread in Asia is far greater than East Coast to Midwest; it encompasses everything from Tokyo to Astana, Dubai to Beijing.

Beijing, in the headlines because of next year's Olympics, is the most extraordinary example in its Wild West blend of the bland and the shocking. OMA's staggering HQ for CCTV, a pair of gargantuan towers leaning into each other and bridging at the top presents an entirely new building type, a kind of Mobius strip and, although still under construction, is already one of the most astonishing buildings I have seen.

It is also an incredibly shrewd choice for the state broadcaster which now has, in its architect, Rotterdam-based Rem Koolhaas, one of the sharpest polemical minds fighting its corner.

Across town US designer Steven Holl is building a whole city of eight towers, housing 2,500 inhabitants, each bridged and linked together in a complex nest of living and leisure.

Other architects have been attempting to create a specifically Asian vision of the skyscraper typology.

The most famous is by the architect of London's One Canada Square. Cesar Pelli's stainless steel-clad Petronas Towers, which nodded elegantly to Malaysia's hybrid Islamic and East Asian aesthetics.

These twin towers briefly held the title of tallest buildings in the world, but were overtaken by CY Lee's Taipei 101 Tower, the first skyscraper to surpass half a kilometre - and itself recently overtaken by Dubai's Burj Tower - another effort to mimic traditional buildings, in this case the pagoda.

Chicago architects SOM's Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai describes a similar search for oriental architectural roots. Next door, the even taller Shanghai World Financial Centre will dwarf its neighbour in a couple of years.

This streamlined 492m high structure features a hole at its top, representing, according to architects Kohn Pedersen Fox, "heaven", in a gesture of seeming existential nihilism.

It will also feature the highest observation deck in the world and well as the highest hotel.

Also under construction is British firm RMJM's astonishing Gate to the East, a 278m triumphal arch - and the largest single structure in China - in Suzhou, to the west of Shanghai, attempting to establish a new business district in competition with the prickly skyline of Pudong across the water.

If formal radicalism and attempts to develop a local typology have provided the most visible aspects of Asian architecture, then the next big thing seems certain to be the ecoscraper.

Asia has proved just as important a landscape of innovation in green architecture as it has in the search for new forms.

Malaysian architect Ken Yeang has carved himself a niche in the seemingly oxymoronic genre of the ecologically-conscious skyscraper. His Menara UMNO Tower on Penang Island was the first to use wind to ventilate its interiors and the big, corporate practices have been paying careful attention.

SOM's shapely 69 storey Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou, China, is intended to be the first zero-energy skyscraper, actually feeding energy back in to the grid through a blend of wind turbines, solar panels and water recycling.

However, it conveniently forgets about the enormous embodied energy in this, actually, most unsustainable building type. And then there is the client, a tobacco company.

Hong Kong, which led the way with Foster & Partners' magical HSBC Bank HQ in 1986, has been rather overshadowed, although the slender, tapering form of Cesar Pelli's Two International Finance Centre - at 415m currently the seventh tallest building in the world - makes a fine marker from the harbour.

Tokyo has also lost its place in terms of individual buildings, although its skyline and extraordinary density still rank it high in city terms. Its big innovation remains the resolutely mixed-use Roppongi-Hills Mori Tower, a cornucopia of shopping, living, hotels and even culture, with a museum on its upper floors.

In place of such traditional centres as Hong Kong and Japan, it is the new cities of China that are racing up the charts.

DLN Architects' CITIC Plaza dominates Shenzhen's skyline, while KY Cheung's Shun Hing Square towers over Guangzhou - both shooting into the top 10 tallest; both seeming templates for further development; both designs from local architects; both taunts to try harder.

The skyline, for better or for worse, has become what cathedrals, boulevards, or grand squares used to be. Skylines have become logos, ciphers for dynamism and economic success, tell-tale spikes on a graph.

The mix of avant-garde architects flocking to Asia to build their formerly impossibly utopian monuments, and of international and local commercial architects catching up with those visionary expressions, is producing some genuinely visionary and extraordinary structures that may change the way we look at buildings.

It is unsustainable, it can be ugly but it seems inevitable.

For now, perhaps, all we can do is marvel. We are unlikely to see the like of such a boom again.
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Old November 29th, 2007, 10:36 PM   #18
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I think it's amazing what is being built accross the globe. Sad that in the USA many gave up on the cities for the horrible and boring suburbs.

That said, US developers will not build if it does not make economic sense. Plus, we have very strong neighborhood groups who can stall and prevent a project from happening. This pressure does not exist in many parts of the world.

The USA does not need to promote itself anymore. The World's Tallest Skyscraper has become a trophy other cities and countries are chasing after. The rest of the world can just keep on eating our fast food, watching our movies, listening to our music and wearing our fashion.

I personally HATE the Spire project in Chicago. It is UGLY. I hope I'm wrong but I'm not optimistic.
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Old November 29th, 2007, 10:43 PM   #19
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I also wanted to add that skylines in and of themselves are not that interesting to me. It's the combination of skyline, density, and urban fabric that make a city. It's the people of the city and the urbanity and lifestyle of the city. Dallas may have a better skyline than Boston but it is hardly more urban than Boston. I'd argue that Boston feels more like a CITY than Atlanta, Miami and Dallas anyday.

That said, skylines like Dubai seem so sterile to me. Yes ...it is unfinished [which by the way makes it seem so fake to me]. Now in 20 years there are hordes of diverse people walking the streets and mingling then I will have a different view of dubai. So much of Dubai seems like individual skyscrapers set apart from each other with no in fill buildings.... like some grotesque suburban highrise office park. There is no urbanity to that. ROME seems more urban to me than Dubai.
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Old November 29th, 2007, 10:53 PM   #20
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Just wanted to add that NYC keeps adding all ranges of skyscrapers ranging from 500 ft to well over 1,000 ft. That said, the only cities that may compare with NYC may be London and Tokyo when it comes to having tall buildings and the urbanity along to go with them... PLUS a GLOBAL influence of media, finance, fashion, culture etc... Add to that list Hong Kong and Shangai as well.

Amazing Skylines with URBANITY is what we all should be talking about here folks. Nashville Tennessee after all if building a megatall skyscraper...but WHO CARES?? it's in Nashville of all places. It's all about context.

After all, who really cared that Kuala Lumpur had the tallest building for several years?? Most people to this day do not know of Kuala Lumpur nor care to visit the place.
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