I’m reading an excellent booki by Candice Millard named Destiny of the Republic about the assassination of President James Garfield.
At one pont she mentions that the world’s first skyscraper was in Chicago. Oh sure, something by Louis Sullivan I figured. Well, I was wrong. And my research to find the right answer led to several shocks.
The first skyscraper was truly in Chicago but it was the Home Insurance Building. Why hadn’t I heard of it? Perhaps because it was razed in 1931. The 10 story Home Insurance high rise was completed in 1885 when 3 inventions finally made them possible–the elevator, steel beams, and, perhaps most important, electric plumbing pumps.
So, what’s the world’s oldest surviving skyscraper? I guessed New York’s Flatiron Building. Again, wrong. It’s the entire mud brick town of Shibam in Yemen.
Home Insurance was 138 feet tall. The Burj Khalifa, current champ according to SkyscraperPage.com and seen in Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protcol, is 2,717 feet with 163 floors. Opened in 2010, the Burj is 20 times taller than Home Insurance was–shock #3.
The 2nd highest skyscraper is in Taiwan, the Taipei 101. It has, as named, 101 floors and is 1,666.6 feet tall, with tower.
Shock #4. Taipei 101 is about to drop to #3 because of the Makkah Clock Royal Tower scheduled to open this year with only 95 floors but at a cloud-brushing 1,972 feet. I had to look up Makkah to learn that it’s what I’ve always spelled M-e-c-c-a. Maybe I didn’t know because I can’t go there.
However, shock #5. I’ve been to 4 of the top fifteen–Shanghai’s World Finance Center and the Jin Mao Tower and skyscraper-magnet Chicago’s Trump International Hotel & Tower and The Willis Tower.
The Willis used to be called The Sears Tower, and it was the tallest building in the world when completed in 1974. It was #1 for 24 years until the Petronas Towers soared upward in Kuala Lumpur. Now Willis ranks #7 among existing skyscrapers with the distinction of being the oldest on the top ten list.
Shock #6. Thanks to emporis.com, which includes skyscrapers being built, I learned that the Makkah Clock Royal Tower is just one of 5 really-high-rises to be completed in 2012 and, as a result, to be added to the list of the world’s top 25. The others are The Domain (Central Market) in Abu Dhabi, Princess Tower in Dubai, Elite Residence in Dubai, and the Emirates Park Tower, also in Dubai. What’s up with Dubai? Answer: everything.
Shock #7. The venerable Empire State Building, still New York City’s biggest tourist attraction, will soon be out of the top 20 list. It’ll rank #21 by 2013.
When I calm down, I’ll be heading for Taiwan, Hong Kong (its International Commerce Tower is #5 on the Emporis list), and Kuala Lumpur.