Asia Goes Crazy for 'Super-Tall' Buildings
Brian A Kennedy | May 30, 2007 at 04:17 amby
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Of those planned new buildings, only five will be in the United States. Three are in New York: the Freedom Tower, the 1,776-foot building planned for the site where the World Trade Center stood; the Bank of America Tower; and The New York Times Tower. The other two are in Chicago: the Trump International Hotel & Tower and the Waterview Tower.
Many of the world's new super-tall buildings are rising in overcrowded cities where land is scarce, and a newly emerging middle class is clamoring for modern office and living space. But experts say the drive to go tall also reflects the aspiration of Asian and Gulf nations to join the ranks of the developed world, and to assert that their long-awaited moment in history has finally come.
"Developing countries want the tallest building to put themselves on the map," said Antony Wood, executive director of the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. "They want to say to the developed world that they've arrived, that they now have the financial and technological ability to make these projects happen."
In South Korea, one reason for the sudden proliferation of ambitious skyscraper plans has been a desire to keep up with its booming neighbors: China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
"South Koreans were a little hurt by the fact that Taiwan has the world's tallest building, and we don't," said Lee Bok-nam, a researcher at the Construction & Economy Research Institute of Korea. "If they have one, we have to have one, too."
For now, the busiest builder remains Dubai, as the bustling port in the United Arab Emirates grows into the Gulf's financial center. The city has poured billions of its oil and banking dollars into dozens of gleaming high-rises that have sprung out of what was until recently empty desert, though the boom has been marred by labor abuses.
According to Emporis, 15 of the super-talls planned or under way are located there, including the Burj Dubai, a $1 billion, 161-story tower scheduled for completion next year that will be — at least for a while — the world's tallest man-made structure, besting the 2,063-foot KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota.
The Burj's Dubai-based owners hope that by not revealing the building's height until the final spire is fitted, they will frustrate rivals' plans to immediately outdo them. Most speculation puts the Burj's height at about a half-mile, or 2,650 feet.
Such heights are possible because of new high-performance concretes and composite materials and advances in engineering. One of the Burj's chief structural engineers, Ahmad Abdelrazaq, said that computer simulations allowed for increasingly innovative designs.
"Tall buildings are all about the technologies available," said Abdelrazaq, an executive director at Samsung Engineering & Construction, one of the main contractors building the Burj. "Humans have always aspired to go to the highest point they can reach, and the technologies determine how high that is."
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