Residents of the Western Hemisphere might not know it, but we are living in the age of the”megatall” skyscraper.
But as of a bit more than a decade ago, construction began on the first megatall construction, defined as one which stands 600 meters (1,969 feet) or more. The first megatall construction was Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai. Since its completion in 2009, the Burj Khalifa has been the tallest artificial structure in the world.
But it won’t hold on to this designation much longer.
Construction is already underway on the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia. Also called the Kingdom Tower, the structure is planned to reach 3,281 feet upon completion, expected in 2020.
The Kingdom Tower will take beyond the Burj Khalifa and other present megatall structures, including the 2,073-foot Shanghai Tower, Saudi Arabia’s existing 1,971-foot Abraj Al-Bait and the 1,965-foot Ping An International Finance Centre in Shenzhen, China, largely complete and slated to be finished next year. New York’s supertall One World Trade Center, attaining a patriotic 1,776 feet, is the only building in the Western Hemisphere to create the current top 10 list, and it may soon find itself pushed out completely.
Even the Jeddah Tower might not have long to enjoy its place on top. While there’s no definite site yet devoted to the project, it’s another indication of the appetite to push architecture ever upward.
Some tall and supertall skyscrapers are purely residential, particularly in america. Advances in technology and engineering, in addition to increased population pressure in metropolitan areas, make living dozens of stories up a more attractive prospect than it once was. But one of the megatall structures that are cropping up around the world, devoting an entire tower to purely residential use is infrequent.
Instead, many of these megatall buildings include business and residential portions, together with hotels, restaurants and a variety of in-house amenities. In effect, they’re the most prominent evidence that cities now are as apt to sprawl upward as outward. In size and in purpose, they are efficiently several skyscrapers in one.
Mixed-use towers provide a few economies of scale. The restaurant where employees grab lunch on Tuesday will gladly serve brunch to residents and resort guests on Sunday. The shops, gardens and wellness services offered to residents will, in effect, make the tower a comparatively self-contained community. The climate control system will be able to draw cooler, cleaner air from the stories far above road level, saving on cooling and filtration prices. And infrastructure like a water mains and power will obviously be consolidated.
For some residents, also, there could be individual savings. Visitors seeing friends or family will have the ability to stay in hotel rooms just a few floors away.
Much as ocean liners have sometimes been described as”floating cities,” multiuse towers such as the one underway in Jeddah may signify”climbing cities.” As such, they will need redundancies and safeguards for electricity, sanitation and emergency services. Some of these will just be a matter of planning ahead; others may require innovative solutions.
In Dubai, the proposal would be to outfit firefighters with”jetpacks,” powered by helicopter blades rather than streams of gasoline, but still intended to permit individual first responders to rescue stranded civilians. While New Yorkers should not expect to find the FDNY flying around One World Trade Center’s upper levels any time soon, futuristic skyscrapers already demand unusual solutions to unique problems.
Contemporary design also allows these towers to be constructed with increasing efficiency of substances. Engineering techniques such as a weight-bearing”exoskeleton” on the outside of tall buildings and the availability of stronger steel and concrete imply that builders can implement architects’ designs while keeping costs manageable and buildings safe for the people who will live, work and relax in them once they are complete.
Such structures are either prohibited outright or require zoning variances blocked by people who would may not be directly influenced at all, but dislike the idea of such a job in their backyard on principle.
And by international standards, the United States is fairly adaptable where construction permissions are concerned. It is harder to envision supertall, mixed-use skyscrapers gaining a foothold in Berlin or Milan, let alone Paris, where the statement of a 590-foot tall mix hotel and office building generated hand-wringing and outcry just months ago.
In some ways, supertowers may offer what urban living advocates have championed for ages. They reduce the demand for automobiles and other transport, allow communities to deploy resources more efficiently and offer improved amenities through economies of scale.
On the other hand, these towers stand in opposition to calls for “human scale” development. Some urban planners have argued that focusing too much on efficiency may lead to isolating and even dangerous results for individuals. To remain viable, mixed-use towers will most likely require common spaces such as gardens, courtyards or gallerias, in addition to the proposed restaurants and shops that will make life social, not simply efficient, for the men and women who live and work in these places.
While megatall skyscrapers pose a variety of challenges, more countries are tackling these issues all the time. Towers like the one climbing in Jeddah are just one vision of the future, and one that is arriving first in the global East.