Towards Heaven: World’s Tallest Buildings

11:08 am  |  15.03.2021

Over the centuries, mankind has produced a variety of technical and architectural achievements – massive buildings, for example. The designers were also driven by the goal of crossing boundaries and setting new standards.


The erection of particularly tall buildings and towers has always been one of the activities that drove architects to set new records. The history of skyscrapers in the modern sense began as early as the 19th century. The term “skyscraper” generally subsumes habitable high-rise buildings with a height of at least 150 meters and at least 40 floors. The term was first used in the 1880s when the so-called “Chicago style” architecture was developing. The aim of the designers at the time was, on the one hand, to achieve ever greater heights and, on the other hand, to increase the rental area of ​​the buildings in such a way that the skyscrapers became economically viable.

Aiming higher and higher – the famous photo lunch atop a skyscraper has been going around the world like wildfire since 1932. It shows construction workers eating their meals at dizzying heights on a steel girder above the city of New York. To this day, the Rockefeller Center, which the construction workers in the picture erected at that time, is the tallest building in New York with 259 meters and 70 floors and shapes the skyline of the world metropolis. Thanks to people’s intention to strive to aim higher and higher, the Rockefeller Center was quickly replaced in the ranking of the world’s highest buildings.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) set a unified standard for cataloging the tallest buildings in the world in 1969. The height of a completed building is measured primarily as the structural height, i.e. from the walkway in front of the main entrance to the highest architectural element. The attached antennas are not taken into account. Transmitter masts and towers that are not or only irregularly accessed do not have a frame structure made up of floors and walls. They are therefore not counted in the category of buildings and are excluded from the CTBUH according to the design criteria.

International Commerce Center

International Commerce Center ICC Hong Kong

With a total height of 484 meters, the International Commerce Center only ranks 10th in the list of the tallest buildings in the world, but it towers high above the roofs of the metropolis of Hong Kong. The skyscraper is a fabulous sight on one of the waterfronts downtown. Seen from one of the tourist shops, the interesting architecture with its blue shimmering glass facade is a popular photo opportunity. The construction of the reinforced and reinforced concrete building took eight years, from 2002 to 2010. Inside, the International Commerce Center has 108 floors. In the tallest building in Hong Kong, there is not only office space, a shopping center, and landscaped parks but also a hotel. The Ritz Carlton on the 93rd floor is the highest hotel above the ground. It also holds the record for the highest swimming pool in the world. The Sky100 observation deck on the 100th floor is at least the highest in the city.

Shanghai World Financial Center

A trapezoidal cavity gapes at the top to counteract the high wind load. This makes the structure look like an oversized bottle opener.

One of the three huge buildings that are lined up and together form the silhouette of Shanghai is the Shanghai World Financial Center, along with the Jin Mao and the Pearl Tower. Equipped with one of the highest viewing platforms in the world – at 474 meters above the ground – the hotel and office building is also the second-highest building in the city. The construction period of the 492-meter high prestige object began in 1997 and ended in 2008 with a grand opening. Architecturally, the Shanghai World Financial Center can be classified as postmodern. It has 101 floors, with the last accessible floor 474 meters above the ground. The structure of the building is made of steel and reinforced concrete and the surrounding facade is made of glass. Probably the most distinctive feature of the skyscraper is its shape. 

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TAIPEI 101

Night light and stunning view

The eponymous 101 floors of Taipei 101 in the capital of Taiwan formed the tallest building in the world from 2004 to 2007 before it was replaced by the Burj Khalifa during the construction phase. However, with its 508 meters, it was still considered the tallest office building in the world until 2014. Since the Taipei 101 is in an active earthquake zone, the engineers had to be very resourceful to make the building sufficiently earthquake-proof. For this purpose, they integrated the largest and only publicly accessible damper pendulum in the world into the reinforced concrete building. As a result, the building is not just a static masterpiece. With its glass facade, which is a modern reference to traditional Chinese construction, and the aesthetics of the visible pendulum inside, the building is a popular tourist attraction.

Guangzhou CTF Finance Center


Finance Center in the colorful lights

The Guangzhou International Finance Center reaches a total height of 530 meters and is seventh in the world rankings. With a helipad at 438.6 meters, it is also the world record holder for the highest helipad on a building. Inside the center, offices occupy the first 68 floors of the total of 103 floors. Floors 69 to 72 offer a variety of entertainment options – as a hotel lobby for the Four Seasons Hotel, equipped with fitness centers and restaurants. Above the hotel on the 99th to 100th floors is the sky lobby with a viewing platform for visitors at 418.5 meters above the ground. The construction took four years in total, from 2006 to 2010. The steel building was originally planned as a twin building and was therefore initially also known as the “West Tower”. However, the planned twin tower was discarded and instead replaced by the 503-meter-high Chow Tai Fook Center, which is currently under construction.

One World Trade Center

The top ten of the total of 104 floors of the OWTC is reserved for broadcasting systems and are therefore not included in the CTBUH rating of the official number of floors.

The original World Trade Center gained notoriety as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The tragedy terrified not only the citizens of New York but the entire world. Surveys among US citizens finally determined what was to be done at the site of the former WTC. The city then decided on a new building, surrounded by parks and a memorial. The new One World Trade Center was built at Ground Zero of the north tower with only a slightly different location and in a new architectural style. At 541.3 meters, it stands 1,776 American feet and is thus symbolic of the American Declaration of Independence, signed in 1776. The foundation stone was laid on American Independence Day on July 4, 2004. Ten years later, in 2014, the tourism and office building was officially opened. 

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Lotte World Tower

A futuristic view of The Lotte Tower

The Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea, ranks 5th in the world. With a total height – from the ground to the top – of an astonishing 554.5 meters, the skyscraper opened on April 3, 2017, after seven years of construction. The tower contains office space, a hotel with 260 suites, and a shopping center. It is the tallest building in the country and has a special viewing platform that is even listed in the Guinness Book of Records. The Lotte World Tower has the highest glass-floor viewing platform in the world. It is located on floors 117 to 123 and is accessible to the public. The top floor of the building is at a height of 497 meters. The floor plan of the tower is square, while the building tapers towards the top. Covered with a glass facade, the steel construction is an architectural masterpiece of postmodernism.

Ping An Finance Center

The supporting structure consists of steel and reinforced concrete and is encased in a facade made of glass and aluminum. The post-modern building is divided into a total of 120 floors.

In southeast China, in the provincial city of Shenzhen, the Ping An Finance Center stands with a remarkable height of 599.1 meters and ranks fourth among the 10 tallest buildings in the world. Five of the floors are underground, the highest floor is 555 meters above the ground. The building itself contains offices, shops, and a hotel. The upper floors of the center are open to the public and are occupied by restaurants. One of the highest viewing platforms in the world is also located here. It is even higher than that of the tallest building in the world. About as high as that of the Makkah Royal Clock Tower in Mecca.

Mecca Royal Clock Tower

Mecca Royal Clock Tower Hotel view at the time of the big Muslim holiday

The Mecca Royal Clock Tower Hotel deserves third place on the list of tallest buildings in the world, and not just because of its gigantic height. The reinforced concrete-steel composite building with 120 floors combines several superlatives and records in one structure. The exterior of the tower-shaped hotel is modeled on the London landmark Elizabeth Tower – the home of the famous Big Ben bell – and is part of the Abraj Al-Bait Towers group of skyscrapers. Since the building in Mecca is many times larger than the original in London, the true-to-scale tower clock also claims the title of the largest tower clock in the world.


These four 23 meter tall gems were built in the Swabian town of Calw. The dials are illuminated with two million LEDs. At the prayer times of the most important pilgrimage site in the Arab world, an oversized Saudi Arabian coat of arms lights up. In the ten-story area above the hotel complex, in the immediate vicinity of the clock, there are museums and conference rooms. There is also an accessible celestial globe, two gigantic spheres that are played with projectors. The second highest viewing platform in the world is located at 558 meters below the top, which measures 601 meters.

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Shanghai Tower

Above the clouds: The Shanghai Tower is the tallest building in China – and is considered one of the most spectacular skyscrapers in the world

The second tallest skyscraper, the Shanghai Tower, has a proud total height of 632 meters. The building soars into the sky near the Shanghai World Financial Center (9th place). It is the tallest building in the city of Shanghai, the People’s Republic of China, and the entire Asian continent. The tower was built between 2008 and 2015 and offers space for a hotel, office space, and a shopping center. It is also a popular location for exhibitions and, since March 2016, has offered the world’s highest viewing platform at a height of 561 meters. The highest usable area is 583.4 meters above the ground.

The specialty of the Shanghai Tower is not only its size. It also stands out from other skyscrapers, as its glass facade reveals a twisted tower. The construction consists of steel and reinforced concrete and follows a particularly sustainable concept, which should make the giant an environmentally friendly masterpiece. Green areas on 10,000 square meters between the inner and outer glass walls create a pleasant climate inside the building and integrated wind generators supply the outdoor lighting with electricity. A prestige project with a green footprint.

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa above the clouds

Monumental, colossal, and gigantic – for years the undisputed number 1 in the world rankings: Burj Khalifa. The Giga building measures a whopping 829.9 meters from floor to top (828 meters according to CTBUH criteria) and thus overshadows all buildings on Dubai’s skyline and the rest of the world.

At the start of construction, the architects and engineers were not quite sure what the dimensions of the project would be. A skyscraper was planned that would only just exceed the height of the tallest building at the time, the TAIPEI 101. However, the Y-shaped floor plan, which resembles a rotor blade, made it possible to reach unimagined heights. It was only after the foundation had been cast and a few loads tested that it became clear that a significantly taller building would be able to withstand it. Until the end of the construction, however, it was withheld from the public what total height the building would ultimately reach.

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After a construction period of six years – in 2010 – the Burj Khalifa was completed. Its usable space includes living space, office space, and the Armani Hotel. The highest usable floor of the property is floor 163. Three viewing platforms, one at 555.70 meters on the 148th floor of the tower and two more on floors 124 and 125 allow a breathtaking view of the desert and the panorama of Dubai. The total cost of the structure was around one billion euros. Special concrete pumps were even required for the steel and reinforced concrete construction. They ensured that the material reached the upper sections of the colossus in a still malleable state. The outer facade is made of glass and aluminum.

The Burj Khalifa also houses the prestige restaurant At. Mosphere, which opened in 2011, holds the record as the highest restaurant in the world. And the world’s largest water feature can be seen right in front of the skyscraper: the Dubai Fountain. With a pool length of 250 meters, around 1,000 water impressions reach a height of up to 150 meters.

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