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Kingdom Tower, Burj Khalifa and the era of the megatall buildings

Imagine a particularly intricate and improbable piece of engineering that  would uproot the Statue of Liberty, pedestal and all, from New York Bay and  place it on top of the Burj Khalifa.

Now take a second Lady Liberty, all 93 metres of her, and balance this on top  of the first. Only now do you have a structure to match the height of the  proposed Kingdom Tower in Jeddah.

Due for competition by 2018, the Kingdom Tower will not just snatch the crown  of the world's tallest building from Dubai, but also become the first building  to rise above 1,000 metres.

Side by side, the two buildings could be sisters, soaring towers of glass  that rise from a wide base to a needle spire that seems to pierce the sky. But  their design is not the only thing they have in common. When it comes to the  tallest of the tall, these days location is as important as engineering.

Earlier this year the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat released  its annual report for 2012. The organisation, which studies trends in city  architecture, is based in Chicago, a city once celebrated for its  skyscrapers.

These days, though, the council must cast its net a little wider than the  Windy City. and even far beyond the shores of the United States.

Three out of the five tallest buildings competed last year were in Dubai, led  by the 413 metre Princess Tower in Dubai Marina, which is also the tallest  residential skyscraper in the world. Dubai also boasts the tallest hotel in the  world, the 355 metre JW Marriott Marquis Dubai which opened last month.

Seven of the top 20 were in China and three in Saudi, including the year's  biggest, the 601 metre Makkah Clock Tower, one of only two buildings to be  awarded "megatall" status by the council.

Other cities in the top 20 include Panama and Hanoi, while Abu Dhabi made it  with the completion of the Nation Towers on the Corniche. But only one North  American city can claim a place in the top 20: The Trump International Hotel in  Toronto, down in 15th place.

As Dr Anthony Wood, the executive director of the CTBUH, points out, 2012  actually saw a slight decline in the number of tall buildings finished,  something he attributes to the continuing impact of the world recession.

Yet at the same time, last year was still possibly the second most successful  in history for skyscraper completion.

Dr Wood describes the pattern in the Middle East as: "Interesting." The  global downturn hit construction in places like Dubai hard, yet the city is  still up there. What has happened, says Dr Wood, is that initially "work stopped  or slowed on buildings that were half way through competition. Last year saw a  lot of those buildings finished."

In general, though, while cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi continue to push  upwards, much of the future construction will take place further east, in  Asia.

In countries like China, tall buildings are an effective way of housing large  numbers of people, as the population migrates from the countryside to the  cities. In the Middle East, tall buildings are more of a statement of intent.  The Burj Khalifa, says Dr Wood, is part of "A financial model based on a making  a grab for business and tourism."

In that sense, the Burj represents Dubai's push to become a world city, and  the costs of its construction need to be set against that bigger picture. At the  same time, the 829 metre tall structure, which includes apartments and a luxury  hotel, is not simply an expensive marketing tool for the Emirates. The "wow"  factor of being in the shadow of the tallest building on Earth has pushed up  land values all around the Burj, creating an economic ripple effect that  benefits the whole city

Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/environment/kingdom-tower-burj-khalifa-and-the-era-of-the-megatall-buildings#ixzz2Okv29bRh

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