10 tallest buildings in the world – PHOTOS

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Rising upward more than a century now, skyscrapers have emerged to become the symbol of urban style and might. And what started in the late 1800s continues dynamically into the 21st century as we build higher and higher.

Why do we do it? Professor Valery Augustin of the USC School of Architecture and principal at DNA Architecture + Design says it could come down to one word: “Ego.”

“Skyscrapers are aspirational,” Augustin told CNN. “Humans have always been fascinated by height. Whether it be Icarus or the Wright Brothers, we have always sought to escape the bonds of the gravity. Skyscrapers let us fly if only briefly.”

And then there are the less lofty reasons for going taller — such as maximizing land value and ever-improving technology and engineering capabilities, Augustin said.

But have we reached the limits of how high we can build? Augustin doesn’t think so.

“Engineers and architects are only now beginning to experiment with superlight, superstrong materials composites, graphene come to mind) that may allow us to keep pushing the envelope.”

While we wait for the next record-breaker to come along, these are the 10 tallest completed buildings in the world by height of their architectural tops, which includes spires but not structures such as antennae or flagpoles:

The Taipei 101 building is illuminated in blue to mark the World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, 2015 in Taipei City, Taiwan. (Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images for Autism Speaks)

10. Taipei 101

Location: Taipei, Taiwan
Height: 508 meters (1,667 feet) | Floors: 101
Public observatory? Yes | Completed: 2004

Still the tallest building in Taiwan, it held the “tallest” title for the world from 2004 until 2010. While nine other skyscrapers since then have surpassed it, Taipei 101 remains a stunning spectacle.

“This building is notable because it essentially stands alone as there are no towers of similar size nearby,” Augustin said.

Evoking the image of a Chinese pagoda, it’s built to withstand the strong earthquakes and typhoons that can hit the island.

Light reflects off buildings in Beijing’s central business district, including the city’s tallest building, known as China Zun, at dawn on July 6, 2019. (Photo credit GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

9. CITIC Tower

Location: Beijing
Height: 527.7 meters (1,731 feet) | Floors: 109
Public observatory? Yes | Completed: 2018

Also called China Zun, the No. 9 skyscraper has a memorable form with the top and bottom of the structure wider than the middle floors. The shape is patterned after an ancient Chinese ritual vessel (the “zun”).

It’s the tallest building in Beijing. Dedicated to office use, it has 101 elevators.

Augustin said it was “one of the more elegant towers” of the top 10 list. “The tapered middle section evokes the appearance of a slender vase rising into the sky.”

Tianjin CTF Finance Centre. (Credit: BD2412, Wikimedia Commons)

8. Tianjin CTF Finance Centre

Location: Tianjin, China
Height: 530 meters (1,739 feet) | Floors: 96
Public observatory? No | Completed: 2019

Tianjin CTF Financial Centre outreaches its nearby capital city rival by a relatively small measure — just a couple of meters.

The facade of the mixed-use building (office, hotel and serviced apartments) has gently undulating curves that help minimize wind force on the structure.

Asia, and most particularly China, dominates this list, with cities and buildings many in the West may know little or nothing about.

“I would offer that skyscrapers are a symbol of economic power. And as such, they represent Asia’s ascendancy as a dominant force in the world economy,” Augustin said.

Guangzhou CTF Finance Center. (Credit: PQ77wd, Wikimedia Commons)

7. Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre

Location: Guangzhou, China
Height: 530 meters (1,739 feet) | Floors: 112
Public observatory? No | Completed: 2016

Yet another entry from dominant China, the Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre is in the bustling southern port city of Guangzhou.

Overlooking the Pearl River, the building’s distinctive features include four setbacks, which allow for green sky terraces and skylights. And for now, it claims the title of having the world’s fastest elevator.

Interestingly, the architectural height of the building matches its counterpart in Tianjin. But Guangzhou CTF has a higher occupied height at 495.5 meters while the CTF building in Tianjin has an occupied height of 439.4 meters.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 8: An aerial view One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, September 8, 2016 in New York City. New York City is preparing to mark the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

6. One World Trade Center

Location: New York City
Height: 541.3 meters (1,776 feet) | Floors: 104
Public observatory? Yes | Completed: 2014

Once the skyscraper capital of the world, New York has the lone Western Hemisphere entry on the current top 10 list.

One World Trade Center replaced the Twin Towers destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, and the footprint of its cubic base is the same of the original two towers.

For Americans, it’s a soaring symbol of resilience and has sleeker design than its boxy predecessors. And its height — 1,776 feet for the year the Declaration of Independence was signed — is no coincidence.

Fireworks illuminate on the Lotte World Tower to commemorate the opening on April 2, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. Eleven minutes of 30,000 fireworks celebrate the completion of the Lotte World Tower, 123 floor and 555 meter skyscraper is the fifth tallest in the world. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

5. Lotte World Tower

Location: Seoul
Height: 555 meters (1,821 feet) | Floors: 123
Public observatory? Yes | Completed: 2017

China doesn’t have a total lock on skyscraper superlatives in Asia, with South Korea’s Lotte World Tower coming in at No. 5.

Skyscrapercenter.com notes that Lotte’s design takes “inspiration from traditional Korean art forms.”

Industrious Seoul has put the skyscraper to good use with retail, luxury hotel, apartment and office space. It even has a concert hall and rooftop cafe.

It’s also served as the launching pad for a dramatic fireworks show.

Ping An International Finance Centre. (Credit: Lincolnlover2005, Wikimedia Commons)

4. Ping An Finance Center

Location: Shenzhen, China
Height: 599.1 meters (1,965 feet) | Floors: 115
Public observatory? Yes | Completed: 2017

Shenzhen, another economic powerhouse city in southern China near Hong Kong, makes its mark with the Ping An Finance Center.

It’s a very slender building (its width-to-height aspect ratio is 1:10) with a facade of stainless steel and glass, according to TheTowerInfo.com.

This is “one of the better of the bunch,” Augustin said. “The exterior provides notable structural expression as it rises from base to top.”

This picture taken on August 12, 2019 shows an aerial view of the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, its encompassing Grand Mosque, and the Abraj al-Bait Mecca Royal Clock Tower with its world-record-holding 45 meter diameter, in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca during the climax of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (Photo credit FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

3. Makkah Royal Clock Tower

Location: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Height: 601 meters (1,972 feet) | Floors: 120
Public observatory? Yes | Completed: 2012

The Makkah Royal Clock Tower is the most distinctive structure in the Top 10, and it’s the first of two buildings from the Middle East in the round-up.

Built in the busy center of Mecca next to the Grand Mosque, the tower offers a place for devout Muslims that make the Hajj journey.

“True to its name, four colossal clock faces are mounted near the top of the tower. These clocks hold the record for both the largest and highest in the world,” according to Skyscrapercenter.com.

A woman rides an escalator in front of the Shanghai World Financial Center, the Jinmao Tower and the Shanghai Tower (seen L-R) in Shanghai on April 6, 2016. / AFP / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

2. Shanghai Tower

Location: Shanghai, China
Height: 632 meters (2,073 feet) | Floors: 126
Public observatory? Yes | Completed: 2015

While China dominates the list, no city in China itself has a monopoly. And it should probably come as no surprise that prosperous Shanghai has the tallest building in China and second tallest in the world.

The building is visually arresting with its twisting, spiral shape headed into the sky. And that look isn’t just for show — it helps the building better withstand winds than a traditional rectangular structure.

Shanghai Tower is host to retail shops, restaurants, offices and hotels.

“Architecturally, this one is the best of the bunch,” Augustin said. “Elegant and inventive.”

General view of Burj Khalifa during a heavy fog on September 27, 2017 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

1. Burj Khalifa

Location: Dubai
Height: 828 meters (2,716 feet) | Floors: 163
Public observatory? Yes | Completed: 2010

Like Dubai itself, the Burj Khalifa is setting the pace in the early part of the 21st century.

Blending Islamic influences with modern, energy-saving features, Burj Khalifa “redefined what is possible in the design and engineering of supertall buildings,” according to Skyscraper.com. It also connects to Dubai’s mass transit system, making it both beautiful and practical.

Augustin called it “exhilarating yet frightening at the same time. Not significant architecturally but perhaps notable as a testament to the will and ingenuity of humankind.”

Towers to come

The top 10 skyscrapers might not be able to hold onto their statuses as tallest for too long.

New projects are already underway, including Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, which aims for a height of 1,000 meters. Completed as planned, it would immediately claim the No. 1 spot.

And Goldin Finance 117 (another Tianjin, China, effort) is scheduled to be finished in 2020. At 596.6 meters, it would claim the No. 5 spot and knock Taipei 101 off the list.

Forrest Brown, CNN

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