Cities and Urbanization

There is a global race to build even taller skyscrapers

A man walks past buildings at the central business district of Singapore February 14, 2007. Singapore's trade-reliant economy expanded faster than expected in the fourth quarter on a pick up in domestic activity, data showed on Wednesday, prompting the government to lift its expectations for 2007.  REUTERS/Nicky Loh  (SINGAPORE)

Cities are competing to create the tallest skyscraper, these charts compare the worlds highest. Image: REUTERS/Nicky Loh

Nick Routley
Creative Director and Writer, Visual Capitalist
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Cities and Urbanization

As the creator of today’s visualization, Alberto Lucas López, points out, “the world’s tallest buildings have acted as barometers”.

Image: Visual Capitalist

Another way of putting it? Our biggest architectural accomplishments are highly visible symbols of what society values most, and those values have changed over time. Today, the paramount belief system in many parts of the world is in capitalism, and there is no more potent marker of the economic might than fantastically tall commercial skyscrapers.

Today’s visualization is an effective way to take in the mind-bending scale of the newest generation of megatall buildings. It’s headlined by Jeddah Tower, a skyscraper currently under construction in Saudi Arabia that will smash the one kilometer mark when it’s completed in 2019.

Cities are growing up

In general, only very large cities have the resources to build and support extremely tall buildings.

With the explosion of urbanization around the world and developing economies asserting themselves in high profile ways, the stage is set for a global skyscraper boom.

Image: Visual Capitalist

In the last two years, 39 skyscrapers taller than 300m have been constructed, with five of the them eclipsing the height of the Empire State Building.

Global skyscraper construction has increased a whopping 402% since 2000.

High-rise hot spots

China

Nearly every sizeable Chinese city has skyscrapers under construction, and the numbers are staggering. Since 2012, China has added 38 skyscrapers over 300m (~1,000 ft) in height, and there are another 16 skyscrapers on the way in 2018.

In particular, the Pearl River Delta megaregion, which is anchored by Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou, has seen an astonishing commercial construction boom. Today, 20 of the 100 tallest buildings on earth are located in just this one urban megaregion of China.

China’s Top 10 Tallest Buildings

Image: Visual Capitalist

In total, 46 of the world’s 100 tallest skyscrapers are now located in China, and that number is sure to increase in coming years.

United Arab Emirates
Construction has been relentless in UAE for decades, and much of that development has been vertically-oriented. Today, Dubai is home to nearly 1,000 high-rise buildings, and there are 13 projects currently under construction that will hit or exceed the 300m mark.

UAE’s Top 10 Tallest Buildings

Image: Visual Capitalist

Russia
While the skylines of many European cities are conspicuously low-rise, an exception to that rule is in Moscow’s International Business Centre, where four 300m+ towers have been completed since 2012.

Russia’s Top 10 Tallest Buildings

Image: Visual Capitalist

What about the United States?

In the early 20th century, the United States was the undisputed champion of skyscraper construction, but that has tapered off dramatically. In fact, only six commercial towers over 300m have been constructed in the last 20 years.

The exception may be the city that started it all: New York. There are currently 30 skyscrapers under construction in NYC, fueled in part by a red-hot luxury real estate market.

America’s Top 10 Tallest Buildings (Under Construction)

Image: Visual Capitalist

Philadelphia and San Francisco will soon have new additions to their skylines as Comcast and Saleforce complete their flagship construction projects. If current construction numbers are any indication, America’s love affair with the skyscraper may be reignited in urban centers across the country.

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