China goes up in 'megatall' league
Next door is the Shanghai Tower, currently under construction which, when completed in two years’ time, will stand 632m high with 121 storeys.
It’s a breathtaking achievement, although it looks like another Chinese skyscraper, the Wuhan Greenland Financial Centre, will outstrip even this height by four metres.
The 660m Ping An Finance Centre, a 115-storey high skyscraper being built in Shenzhen, will be the second-tallest building in the world when it is completed in three years.
“We are advancing. When tall buildings were first designed, it was about making them stand up. Now it’s about making them sustainable,” said Johnson.
“The next generation will be buildings that produce their own energy, so they are not a draw on the grid, they actually add to the grid. And maybe the next step is buildings that you can grow things on,” said Johnson.
The idea of the skyscraper as a reflection of a country’s ability to innovate is particularly strong in China, which completed 23 buildings over 200m last year, more than any other country.
Five of those were in Shanghai, and the city’s vice-mayor, Shen Jun, believes tall buildings are an inevitable part of the urban make-up of Shanghai, China’s most populous city.
“Land resources are not renewable,” he said. “We have no choice but to build high-rises to save land.”
Antony Wood, executive director of the CTBUH and an associate professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, believes there is a long way to go to make tall buildings truly successful.
“Speaking as a professor of architecture, I think tall buildings are predominantly disappointing. Tall buildings are part of the answer to the cities of the future, but they are only several baby steps along the path to sustainability,” he said.
“The focus is on supertall, but there are only 67 supertall buildings in existence. Yes, tall buildings are getting taller and there are more of them. We have got to bring the horizontal into the vertical city. There are 20 or 30 examples of buildings that create the urban habitat in the sky. That’s where it needs to go,” he said.
Adrian Smith is the Chicago-based designer of the world’s current tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and he is working on the building that will assume that mantle when completed, the Kingdom Tower.
“In the near future, it depends how the economy goes in China but from an urbanistic point of view, there are 179,000 people moving into urban areas every week. Do they go into a horizontal or a vertical city? It’s a question of economics,” said Smith.
There are multiple reasons to build tall. The Kingdom Tower will be about 50 floors higher than Burj Khalifa, although Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s investment company, which is building the tower, is seeking a loan to help pay for its construction.