The secrets of the most spectacular skyscrapers in the world


A meaning that has changed over time.

Over time, the meaning of words changes and one of those words that have come to mean something different from what it meant in the past is the word “skyscraper” This word was used to refer to anything that stood out in height, and not necessarily, a building. For example, throughout the 18th century, it was used to name the great sails of ships. And in the 19th century, other meanings were added, such as a very tall person, some types of hats or a cyclist who rode those old cycles with high front wheels. But at the end of the 19th century, when tall buildings began to spread, “skyscrapers” as we know them today was when this word began to be used specifically for tall buildings since it had a more real sense of the word.

According to Wikipedia, a skyscraper is a particularly tall and continuously habitable building. Skyscrapers are often also called those buildings that stand out for their height over those of their surroundings.

Skyscrapers are among the most superb and surprising buildings due to their height and capacity to house many people and activities inside. Today we will see some interesting facts about these monsters of modern architecture.

Although there are criteria based on height, classifying them into four categories so that a skyscraper would have to be between 100 meters and 150 meters high. And the super highs are those that reach 300 meters high, and mega highs exceed 600 meters.

Although it is said that the main reason for its construction is usually the maximum economic use of the land, the truth is that I think it has much more to do with the desire to demonstrate prestige and fame. For this reason, multiple skyscrapers are often found grouped together in rich commercial or financial areas of large cities, where the value of the land is high. However, in the case of large skyscrapers, the economic motivation is usually non-existent, since excess height leads to huge maintenance costs. In these cases, the motivation is purely prestige and marketing, since if these large buildings manage to be labelled as the “tallest building” (in the city or country), they acquire relevance and notoriety, and endow an image of power and economic strength to their owner’s city or country.

The congregations in these buildings often redraw the skyline of many cities, such as Dubai, Shanghai, Singapore, etc., providing unique characteristics of the city.

When we think of skyscrapers, one of the images that come to mind most quickly is that of New York. Well, if there is an urban profile represented in thousands of films that we all know and associate with these tall buildings, it is the Big Apple, surrounded by a great movement of people, walking along its sidewalks, among the smoke from the manholes in the streets and the sound of the horns of the cars that circulate through its streets.

Beyond that image created in Hollywood, and despite the fascination, they have aroused, the truth is that, in reality, a skyscraper is nothing more than a high-rise building that has several levels and is designed to house many people or activities in a space at height, especially in places with a high population density. Different techniques and materials are used to ensure its stability, including steel and reinforced concrete, and designs often include reinforcements and support systems to withstand wind pressure and other challenges such as earthquakes.

Next, we describe some of the curiosities that, perhaps, you do not know about these impressive constructions:


The secrets of the most spectacular skyscrapers in the world

Which was the first skyscraper in Europe?

Believe it or not, the first skyscraper in Europe is the Telefónica Building on Gran Vía 28 in Madrid. The Telefónica Building is one of the most emblematic buildings in the Spanish capital, and also one of the most innovative of its time. It is the first skyscraper built in Europe and the tallest on the continent for more than twenty years. Its design and history are linked to telecommunications and the urban transformation of Madrid.

The origin of the project dates back to 1924 when the National Telephone Company of Spain (CTNE) was founded with the support of the American company International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT). The CTNE needed a central headquarters in Madrid to house its offices and its automatic telephone exchange, capable of connecting 40,000 subscribers without manual intervention, a phenomenon in those times. For this, a central site was chosen on the Gran Vía, the new commercial and cultural artery of Madrid.

The person in charge of designing the building was the architect Ignacio de Cárdenas Pastor, architect of the company and member of the generation of 1925. Of course, Cárdenas was inspired by the New York skyscrapers that he had known during his stay in the United States when he worked in the studio of Ralph Walker, author of several emblematic buildings in Manhattan. The chosen style was Art Deco, a style of art and design that became popular in the 1920s and 1930s, especially in Europe and the United States. It is characterized by the use of geometric shapes, ornamental motifs, bright colours and various materials such as metal, glass, wood or plastic. Art Deco drew its inspiration from a variety of sources, including Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, Art Nouveau, Egyptian archaeology, and exotic cultures. Art Deco was applied to various disciplines, including architecture, interior design, graphic design, fashion, painting, sculpture, and film. Art Deco was a modern movement that sought to express the elegance, luxury, and innovation of its time.

The construction of the building began in 1926 and lasted for three years. Innovative techniques for the time were used, such as reinforced concrete, structural steel and electric elevators, a great novelty in those times. The result was a tower 89.30 meters high divided into 15 floors, which rose above the rest of the buildings on Madrid’s Gran Vía. The external appearance was grandiose, with its facades clad in limestone and granite, surmounted by a temple with a clock and a weather vane. The interior was decorated with marble, bronze, noble wood and stained glass. A true jewel of its times.

Although the building was officially inaugurated on January 1, 1930, it had already come into operation before. In fact, in 1928 the first transoceanic telephone call between Spain and the United States was made between King Alfonso XIII and President Calvin Coolidge. The building became a symbol of current affairs and progress for Madrid and Spain, and it was also an architectural landmark for the rest of Europe.

Due to its strategic importance as a communications centre, the building suffered several blitzes during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). However, it withstood the war to a large extent thanks to its solid structure and the protective measures that were taken, such as reinforcing the windows with sandbags and installing an underground bunker. The building also witnessed some historical episodes, such as the siege of the Cuartel de la Montaña or the defence of Parque del Oeste.

After the war, the building resumed its normal activity and continued to be the main headquarters of Telefónica for nearly 50 more years, when it moved to a new complex in Las Tablas. From then on, the building housed various administrative and technical offices of the company, as well as some public services such as the post office or lotteries. In 1992 it was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest for its historical and artistic value.

In 2012, the Espacio Fundación Telefónica was inaugurated, a cultural centre that occupies four floors of the building and offers exhibitions, conferences, workshops and other activities related to digital culture and social innovation. The Space also has a room dedicated to historical collections.


The ten tallest buildings in the world

The 10 tallest skyscrapers in the world according to the standard methodology for determining the height of buildings are:

1. Burj Khalifa (Dubai) with a height of 828 meters.

2. Shanghai Tower (Shanghai) with a height of 632 meters.

3. Abraj Al Bait Clock Tower (Mecca) with a height of 601 meters.

4. Ping An Finance Centre (Shenzhen) with a height of 599 meters.

5. Lotte World Tower (Seoul) with a height of 555 meters.

6. One World Trade Centre (New York) with a height of 541 meters.

7. Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre (Guangzhou) with a height of 530 meters.

8. Tianjin CTF Finance Centre (Tianjin) with a height of 530 meters.

9. CITIC Tower (Beijing) with a height of 528 meters.

10. TAIPEI 101 (Taipei) with a height of 508 meters.


The secrets of the most spectacular skyscrapers in the world

And the 10 most popular skyscrapers in the world? (According to Instagram)

Instagram has conducted an opinion poll on skyscrapers around the world to determine how popular these buildings are.

In every corner of the world, we find buildings that deserve to be classified as emblematic: either for their historical quality or for their architectural quality. And it is that we do not stop emphasizing that the constructions are important architectural milestones that never go unnoticed. A great example is the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain.

Now, Instagram has wanted to carry out “likes” on skyscrapers from around the world. In this way, they have built a list or ranking where we can see some of the most popular worldwide thanks to their impact and mentions on Instagram.

1. Burj Khalifa (Dubai)

Dubai. Burj Khalifa.

In this case, this building not only stands out in popularity for its wonderful aesthetics and the wonderful spaces it houses inside, but it is also the tallest building in the world, with a total height of 828 meters. With panoramic viewpoints that you can find inside, specifically on different floors and therefore different heights. On Instagram, it triumphs with some 6,300,000 mentions.

2. Empire State Building (New York)

There is no doubt that this building belonging to the famous city of New York leaves no one indifferent and that is why it garners nothing more and nothing less than more than 4 million mentions on Instagram. You can visit it and try the great luxury of being able to see New York City in 360 degrees.

3. Taipei 101 (Taiwan)

A design where the most modern use of steel shines, which has accumulated more than 816,000 mentions on Instagram. It is not surprising because it turns out to be an innovation in architecture, having been built to be able to withstand wind and earthquakes. With excellent exterior and interior viewpoints.

4. One World Trade Centre (New York)

One World Trade Centre designed in the colours of the French flag

If we go back to the United States, we find this construction that has caught the attention of so many people that it gets 797,000 mentions on Instagram. Its height is 547 meters and you can go up to the viewpoint located on the 100th floor and also on the 102nd floor to enjoy unforgettable views of New York.

5. Willis Tower (Chicago)

He had held the title for the tallest building until it was stolen by the winner of the list. However, this building is not far behind in terms of its popularity since it only boasts of having 561,000 mentions on Instagram.

6. Petronas Twin Towers (Kuala Lumpur)

It has more than 221,000 mentions on Instagram, and it is not surprising since these towers of the same architecture and aesthetics and 170 meters high attract a large audience due to their brightness and their great viewpoint on the 86th floor.

7. Lotte World Tower (Seoul)

South Korea introduces its tower into the ranking with approximately 110,000 mentions in the city of Seoul and, in addition, it has obtained the LEED gold certification due to the sustainability of the building with the environment.

8. Shanghai Tower (Shanghai)

With a breath-taking viewpoint and a unique structure, this skyscraper has been ranked number 8 on the list and has received more than 104,000 mentions.

9. 30 Hudson Yards (New York)

Once again, New York City has taken another place on the list and this time with the 30 Hudson Yards building, with an incredible viewpoint on its heights where you can appreciate a part of the most interesting of the Big Apple. This building is mentioned on Instagram more than 74,000 times.

10. One Vanderbilt (New York)

To close the ranking it could not be put to another city that was not New York: cradle of the skyscrapers. That is why One Vanderbilt is the building that is in charge of ending the list according to Musement and based on the mentions it has received, which are more than 59,000. You can live unique experiences both outside and inside the building,


The secrets of the most spectacular skyscrapers in the world

What is the maximum height a skyscraper can reach?

But what is the maximum height that a skyscraper can reach? Well, every so often we see how the tallest building in the world is dethroned by another that is a few meters taller than the previous one. As we have seen previously, the tallest building in the world is in Dubai, and it is the so-called Burj Khalifa, 830 meters high. However, it may cease to be so in a short time as another taller one is being built in Saudi Arabia.

There are already several projects to make skyscrapers even taller, like the one in Tokyo in Japan. This one in particular will be 1700 meters high. Meters are being added and it seems that there is no limit to making these fortresses higher and higher. Is there a height limit when building skyscrapers?

The truth is that there is a limit. There is a point at which it will not be possible to build higher, and it depends on the base that can support that height. Due to the curvature of the Earth, both the base and the height of a skyscraper are limited. However, there is still a long way to go to reach that limit according to the architects. What is that limit?

According to some experts, it is thought that skyscrapers four kilometres high with a base of six kilometres could exist in the future. It would be something similar to how a mountain is formed. Why aren’t they built right now? The truth is that it depends on the materials available, their shape and weather conditions. Of course, building something like that would cost a real fortune which possibly is not worth it.


The fastest lift in the world

But how do you get to the top floor at dinnertime? Of course, the technology of the elevator has to go in accordance with the technology of the construction. It is not the same to go up a couple of floors than to go up 30, 40, 50… or more. Well, in addition to helping to climb the skyscrapers, the logical thing is that the lifts are fast, so as not to waste too much time travelling those considerable distances. The fastest to date is the one found in the Shanghai Tower, which with its 632 meters above the ground, with 128 floors, is among the highest in the world. And not only that: inside there are 106 lifts. The fastest of them reaches, no less, than almost 74 km/hour, something not suitable for people who suffer from a circulatory system that is not in optimal conditions. Although the acceleration is progressive, the force of gravity exerted on the body is felt when it reaches its maximum speed.


The skyscraper that was built in 19 days

There are also records of the construction time of a skyscraper. Logically, the most common thing is that it takes several years to build one of these monsters. And it is not enough to raise them, you have to install all the services so that they are habitable and guarantee the safety of the users, especially the fire-fighting system, air conditioning, sanitation, etc. However, there are some projects that have been really fascinating because of the speed at which they have been developed. There is a case of a 57-story tall skyscraper in China that went up in just 19 days. A modular system was used, so that ninety per cent of the total of the building was prefabricated in a factory, so all that had to be done on-site was to assemble the components. In this case, the planning of the work was to build three floors of modules per day.


Believe it or not… China is the country with the most skyscrapers in the world

Although when we think of skyscrapers we think of New York, the reality is that the United States is not the country where there are more buildings of this type, in giant China. The gigantic Asian country has enjoyed significant economic development, becoming the second-largest power in the world. This, how could it be otherwise, has had an impact on many environments, including urban planning and architecture. And one of the ways in which these changes have been shown is in the proliferation of very tall skyscrapers. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), China has 1,034 skyscrapers with a height of more than 200 meters. In addition, among its cities, Hong Kong stands out, with the largest number of skyscrapers in the world, followed by New York in the United States and Shanghai in China.

But it was not always like this. Not long ago the Empire State Building was one of the tallest and most iconic in the world. To his credit, he has various records throughout his history. It was the tallest in the world for 41 years, which, moreover, is a record in itself for the longest period a skyscraper has held on record. Another quite fortunate, record is having been the scene of the largest elevator fall in which the person inside survived. This mishap occurred on July 28, 1945, when a B-25 bomber carrying soldiers crashed into the building. Betty Lou Oliver, a 20-year-old elevator operator, was seriously injured while working on the 80th floor and was placed in an elevator to be transported down for medical attention. The elevator cables, damaged by the crash, snapped and she and the elevator plummeted 75 stories suffering broken backs and legs. The young woman survived and holds the Guinness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall.

And another curious fact… Can the tallest skyscrapers affect the weather?

Large cities with tall skyscrapers, it is known to produce certain changes in the weather that we perceive. As humans, we adapt perfectly to almost any environment, and in cities, some adaptation is needed. Of course, it is something that is impossible to notice, but a person who has always lived in rural areas can feel it.

The skyscrapers modify the patterns of the currents forming wind tunnels. This causes the pollution that exists in large urban areas to rise into the atmosphere, which affects people who live in cities. What happens is that we end up getting used to the levels of pollution that these currents make us breathe. However, someone who is not used to it may have a hard time at first.

Another of the curiosities of skyscrapers is that they cause an effect called the “thermal effect”. What happens is that many of the materials used for these buildings reflect solar radiation during the day, heating the nearby environment and at night this heat is dissipated into the air. This causes the cities’ temperatures to be higher during the day and also at night than in other areas without skyscrapers.


And another very curious fact is that it has been shown that time passes faster in skyscrapers.

If you are an impatient person, maybe you should move to a skyscraper: Why? Because there, on the higher floors, time passes faster. Well, you won’t notice it but mathematically it is proven that time passes faster the higher you are from the ground, but for us it is imperceptible. This change in the speed of time occurs due to a phenomenon known as gravitational dilation, a concept introduced by Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity, whereby time passes faster the further you are from ground level. This fact has been verified on many occasions, one of them in a skyscraper, when a team of Japanese scientists with high-precision optical network clocks measured time on a platform located 450 meters from the Tokyo Skytree, a skyscraper of 634 meters. The result, while subtle, proved that difference was real, as time passed 4 nanoseconds faster per day at that point.


The secrets of the most spectacular skyscrapers in the world

The most beautiful view of the sunsets

At almost 830 meters high, Burj Khalifa, located in Dubai (UAE), is currently the tallest skyscraper in the world.

As an anecdote, this building is so tall that it allows you to enjoy two sunsets a day. If someone wishes, they can see the first one from the base and three minutes later at the top. As the elevator takes just over a minute, with good planning, it will be possible to enjoy these two magical moments on the same day.

In addition, it also has the highest inhabited floor in the world, as well as the highest open-air observation decks and the greatest number of floors, with 163.


And when problems come.

The Millennium Tower is a luxury skyscraper located in the financial centre of San Francisco, California. It was built between 2005 and 2009 by the Millennium Partners group, with a design by the Handel Architects studio and a reinforced concrete structure. It has a height of 196.6 meters and 58 floors, making it the tallest residential building in the city and the fourth tallest overall. The building houses 419 residential units of different sizes and prices, ranging from 1.6 million to 10 million dollars. In addition, it has several services and amenities for its residents, such as a gym, a swimming pool, a spa, a restaurant, and a private club. The Millennium Tower has been awarded several architecture and design prizes for its elegance and modernity. However, the Millennium Tower has also been the protagonist of a controversy that has affected its reputation and its value. Since its inauguration, the building has sunk more than 40 centimetres and has leaned about two inches to the northwest. This has caused structural problems, such as cracks in the walls and windows, elevator and pipeline failures, and seismic hazards. Homeowners have sued builders and the city for damages and depreciation on their homes. Experts have attributed the collapse to the fact that the building is resting on a layer of dense sand and not on the bedrock below. In addition, they have indicated that the construction works of a transport terminal next to the building could have contributed to speeding up the process. To solve the problem, a shoring plan has been proposed that consists of installing some 52 steel piles that would reach the bedrock and hold the base of the building. The estimated cost of this solution is around 100 million dollars, which would have to be borne by the parties involved in the litigation. The plan has not yet been approved or executed, so the Millennium Tower continues to sink and lean every year. Meanwhile, residents have to live with the uncertainty and frustration of watching their homes deteriorate and lose value. The Millennium Tower is an example of how an ambitious and prestigious project can turn into a disaster if all the factors that influence its stability and security are not taken into account. It is also a case that highlights the technical and legal complexity involved in building skyscrapers in dense urban areas prone to earthquakes. The Millennium Tower remains an architectural masterpiece, but also a source of trouble for its inhabitants and for the city of San Francisco.

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