Future of Tall Buildings

September 11, 2001, has not marked the end of the skyscraper era. Already there is talk of America reclaiming the crown with several of the recent proposals for the WTC site in Manhattan involving world-beating structures. But the race for tallness is happening not in America, but in the Far East (see Fig. 8.28k). This past 10 or 15 years (from the mid-1990s to, say, 2010) marks the tall building era of the Far East. Of the world's ten tallest buildings, eight are in Asia. Later this year Taipei will receive the crown from Kuala Lampur, only to pass it on to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, or New York.

What is the motivation behind the race? To be candid, the reasons are the same today as they were some 70 years ago: height now, as then, is an exhibition of technology and power. Nothing is more expressive than an upright symbol, particularly the one with high-tech items such as pressurized double-decker elevators, external damping devices to reduce sway caused by windstorms, and fiber optics incorporated into curtain walls that transform buildings into giant billboards. Tall buildings become instant icons, putting their cities on the map.

Given humanity's competitive nature, it is hard to believe that the Taipei 101 at 1667 ft (508 m) will wear the crown long. The quest for the title of world's tallest building is alive

Figure 8.28. (Continued.)

and well, as evidenced by an announcement in January 2003, by a group of multinational corporations, to add a 1772-ft (540-m) tower, by 2007, to a project already underway in Seoul. This begs the question, how tall can buildings go? Answer: No limit is in sight, at least from structural considerations. Humanity has an obsession with building super-tall structures, particularly when humans can live and work in them. While there are indeed lessons to be learned from the WTC catastrophe, the skyscraper will remain viable well into the foreseeable future.

Figure 8.28. (Continued.)

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