THE ASIAN SKYSCRAPER MANIA

The rush to build bigger, more elegant skyscrapers was essentially an American infatuation through the 20th Century, shaping the distinctive skylines of two great cities, New York and Chicago. The 102-story Empire State Building, 385 m tall was built in Manhattan, New York. It stood as the tallest building in the world from its completion until 1972. In 1974, Chicago’s Sears Tower (442 meters ) took its place, which reined for 25 years.

A major turning point in the evolution of skyscraper construction occurred in the late 1990s, in what then seemed a surprising location: Kuala Lumpur. The completion of the Petronas Towers put Malaysia and most importantly Asia on the map. Designed by architect Cesar Pelli, the iconic twin towers were proclaimed the world’s tallest buildings. But the euphoria was rather short lived because in 2004, Taiwan’s soaring skyscraper, Taipei 101 came on line, tickling the clouds at 509 meters.

It too had to concede its top position within 5 years, as the monstrous 168 floor Burj Khalifa, Dubai, a tower complex reaching 800 meters in height, opened in 2009. Its architect was Adrian Smith, who has designed some of the world’s most noted skyscrapers including, Jin Mao Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower, as well as the proposed 1,000 m (3,300 ft) Kingdom Tower at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The last mentioned building may in a few years occupy the numero uno standing in this rarefied space.

During the late 70s the Americans put a full-stop to the activity of building ultra tall buildings; they started learning the art of living from Indian anchorites. They probably now wanted to just lift their souls ! But the eastern hemisphere literally started waking up to a good morning from the world at windows 500 metres above earth. Having done decades of high thinking they decided it was time to live high, too !

Middle east is likely to be the biggest tower maker for some time to come. In a historical sense, it’s part of the grand cycle of human construction. Building big, began here, when humans started piling up stone blocks to construct the pyramids.

Nowadays, engineers and architects agree there is a statement of power with each new erection. “The exposure that comes from building the super-tall towers is undeniable,” says Adrian Smith, the distinguished architect. Yet he adds that big buildings can also generate value in establishing new destinations, as is happening in Dubai and other neighboring Gulf states.

The other big change is the pace of one-upmanship. Previously, tall buildings were rarer, reining supreme for decades at a time. Now, with a dozen super skyscrapers rising simultaneously, the frantic pursuit of bragging rights means a tall building might be eclipsed within a few years.

You could easily move into one of these buildings and never find a need to leave. These buildings include everything from grocery stores and retail outlets to fitness centers with swimming pools.

Asian developers are utilizing this high-rise housing model for one specific reason: Land is scarce. Most Asian economies lack the vast terra firma that the West finds so readily abundant.

Take Singapore, for example :it’s roughly only 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C., with an economy greater than New Zealand’s and a growth rate double that of the United States.

Hong Kong is another example: it’s only six times the size of Washington D.C., but has an annual GDP on par with Argentina and Portugal.

The point is land is, and always will be, the most valuable asset in places like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Taipei and Singapore. These Asian cities lack the land for urban sprawl in places like Chicago, Washington, Houston, Los Angeles, Melbourne and Atlanta.

Not to be outdone by the other asian tigers, China’s Shanghai city has erected enough high-rises, since 1990, to fill a big chunk of Manhattan. The 88-story Jin Mao Tower, with its distinctive tiered pagoda design, is the tallest building in China, rising to 421 meters. Or at least it will be, until the 492-m. Shanghai World Financial Center is completed in 2008.

India Tower at Mumbai will be 720 metres high ,have 125 floors, and is slated to be completed by 2016,when it may become world’s second tallest tower.

The Petronas Towers may no longer be the tallest building in the world, but it changed Malaysia and the perception of Kuala Lumpur. A world-class building can also raise the bar for other buildings in the city, be it malls, office blocks, or hotels.

Seoul and other major cities across Korea will see a new skyline as the construction of 12 skyscrapers with over 100 stories is underway at this moment.

It appears as if these creature made of steel and cement grow a bit taller every day, steeped in their astral dreams. The mega corporates, who often buy space in these towers, obviously want to see their logos hanging as high as possible! One ambitious plan calls for a 200-story high-rise on the edge of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor.

Just as the completion of the Petronas shifted tall-building construction to Asia last decade, the Burj signals the emergence of the Gulf region as a fertile ground for the next generation of mega-skyscrapers. The Burj towers above the rest, yet scores more high-rises are shooting up across the United Arab Emirates and nearby.

Of the skyscrapers which are currently under construction, most will dwarf today’s top ten countdown, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. Stimulated by an exponentially growing population and, therefore, thriving economy, Asia has contributed more soaring buildings to the world’s Super tall list than all other continents combined. Very soon the model will shift from current 400 meters skyscraper genre to a higher level.

After the 9/11 calamity, America’s existing 21,000 high-rises have realized the vulnerability to hazards like terror attacks, fires, stampedes and earthquakes. Understandably skyscrapers are being now built there rather gingerly.

And the gigantic towers world over are being provided with sophisticated security systems, regular evacuation drills and even a “lifeboat” capsule that can eject out of the building and land to safety using giant parachutes !

Critics of the super tall furor point out that very high buildings rarely, if ever, make financial sense in terms of conventional accounting. They are only constructed if there is too much capital chasing too few productive ideas – hence developers come up with imaginative ways to justify overbuilding .The building will be a status symbol, it will therefore command a 50% premium over other office buildings. Skyscraper construction is characterized by bursts of intense activity , lot of capital, and excessive optimism. But by the time those skyscrapers are finished, the economy would have slipped into recession. They are therefore the visible evidence of a finance driven property bubble, destined to burst .

And with China and the Gulf pushing sky wards over the next several years, history’s boom and bust cycle suggests their economies may crash back to the ground sometime near the end of this decade!

Cynics seem to be always a few meters taller than the tallest

 

Anchorites

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; people retired from society for religious reasons

Synonyms : hermits

Astral

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; being or relating to or resembling or emanating from stars

Synonyms : stellar

Bragging

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; exhibiting self-importance;

Other Meaning(s) : noun an instance of boastful talk

Synonyms : boasting

Calamity

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; an event resulting in great loss and misfortune

Synonyms : disaster

Chunk

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a substantial amount; a compact mass;

Other Meaning(s) : verb group or chunk ther in a certain order or place side by side; put together indiscriminately

Synonyms : lump, clump

Concede

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; eventually becoming ready admit, make a clean breast of; acknowledge defeat; give over;

Other Meaning(s) : surrender or relinquish to the physical control another

Synonyms : yield

Cynics

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; people who doubt everything

Synonyms : faultfinders

Dwarf

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; make appear small by comparison

Other Meaning(s) : noun a person who is markedly small; a legendary creature resembling a tiny old man; lives in the depths of the earth and guards buried treasure; verb check the growth of;

Synonyms : overshadow

Eclipsed

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; hidden something behind itself, grown bigger than something else.

Synonyms : occulted

Erection

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a structure that has been erected; the act of building or putting up

Synonyms : building

Exponentially

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adverb; In an exponential manner

Synonyms : rapidly

Euphoria

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a feeling of great (usually exaggerated) elation

Synonyms : ecstasy

Evacuation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the act of evacuating; leaving a place in an orderly fashion; especially for protection;

Other Meaning(s) : removal of contents of some container

Synonyms : emptying

Expansive

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; spacious[ capable of or finding to expand in size

Other Meaning(s) : adjective friendly and open and willing to talk; marked by exaggerated feelings of euphoria and delusions of

Synonyms : wide

Exposure

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; publicity or visibility to people

Other Meaning(s) : vulnerability, revealing of a secret

Synonyms : publicity

Frantic

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; excessively agitated; marked by uncontrolled excitement or emotion

Synonyms : rabid

 

Furor

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a sudden outburst of interest followed with exaggerated zeal

Other Meaning(s) : a sudden outburst of anger

Synonyms : rage

Gingerly

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; with extreme care or delicacy;

Synonyms : charily

Iconic

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; relating to or having the characteristics of an icon

Synonyms : symbolic

Infatuation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; foolish and usually extravagant passion or love or admiration; temporary love of an adolescent

Other Meaning(s) : noun an object of extravagant short-lived passion;

Synonyms : crush

Noted

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; worthy of notice or attention; widely known and esteemed

Synonyms : renowned

Numero Uno

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; one that is first in rank, order, or importance

Synonyms : Number one

One-upmanship

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the practice of keeping one jump ahead of a friend or competitor

Synonyms : outdoing

Optimism

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; tendency to expect best, the tendency to believe, expect, or hope that things will turn out well

Synonyms : hopefulness, confidence

Proclaimed

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; declared publicly; made widely known

Synonyms : announced

Rarefied

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; reserved for an elite group; of high moral or intellectual value; elevated in nature or style;

Other Meaning(s) : having low density

Synonyms : lofty

Soaring

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; ascending to a level markedly higher than the usual; moving to great heights with little apparent effort; of imposing eight; especially standing out above others;

Other Meaning(s) : noun the activity of flying a glider

Synonyms : towering

Sprawl

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; an aggregation or continuous network of urban communities;

Other Meaning(s) : noun an ungainly posture with arms and legs spread about;

Synonyms : conurbation

Stampedes

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; a headlong rush of people fleeing in panic

Synonyms : panic

Steeped

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; let sit in a liquid to extract a flavour or to cleanse.

Synonyms : soaked, drenched

Terra firma

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a light coloured highland or mountainous area of the Moon of a planet

Synonyms : Highland area of moon or planet

Tiered pagoda

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a pagoda is a tiered tower with multiple eaves, built in traditions originating in historic South Asia and further developed in East Asia

Synonyms : layers of tower

Vulnerability

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; exposure to injury or attack;

Synonyms : susceptibility

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