Competition to build the world’s tallest skyscrapers is heating up, reflecting broader shifts in the global economy. The list of the world’s 10 tallest towers is set to see seven new additions in the next five years alone.

The Middle East features strongly, being home not only to the current tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (828m), but also the future tallest too – the proposed Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia, at 1km in height. Saudi Arabia’s Makkah Clock Royal Tower Hotel (601m), completed in 2012, is also on the current list of the world’s 10 tallest buildings.

Asia, however, features most prominently in the top 10 list, both now and in the future. China, with five towers in the top 10 stands out both literally and metaphorically. Of the top 25 tallest buildings expected to be ready by 2020, 15 of them will be in the Greater China region (including Taiwan and Hong Kong), while a total of 19 will be from Asia.


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Asia’s dominance is driven by many factors. But the region’s size is clearly important – Asia accounts for 60% of the global population. Equally, Asia has been the fastest-growing region in the global economy, which has driven rapid urbanisation and fuelled demand for office space and hotels. Whether towers of such lofty character are economically sensible is an open question, but they certainly serve to show that a city, a country, and even a region, has arrived.

Author: Justin Wood, Head of Asia Pacific, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.

Image: People watch a fountain in front of Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world, in Dubai. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah