Skyscrapers that touch the sky, offices with tens of thousands of people and exhibition centres selling us everything from microchips to aeroplanes, the world’s most massive buildings are getting taller and bigger all the time.
When Henry Baldwin Hyde opened the seven-floor Equitable Life Building in New York in 1870 – the first office in the world with passenger lifts – he was berated for his outrageous delusions of grandeur.
A century and a half later, the Burj Khalifa soars half a mile into the Dubai sky. It’s fair to say that today’s architects are pushing the envelope of what’s possible into uncharted territory.
The largest buildings in the world can be measured in a number of different ways but for the purposes of this article the metric we are using is usable floor area. So based on that approach, here are the contenders for the biggest building in the world.
The Palace of Parliament
Location: Bucharest, Romania | Size: 365,000 square metres | Rooms: 1,100
The seat of Romania’s parliament was ordered by infamous dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and – while it’s not the biggest building in the world – it’s the heaviest, weighing in at a staggering 4.1 million tons. Lighting, electricity and heating costs £4.4 million a year and the building materials included 3,500 tons of crystal, 700,000 tons of steel and bronze, 1m cubic metres of marble and 50 acres of woollen carpets!
Location: Virginia, USA | Size: 620,000 square metres | Windows: 7,754
The world’s largest office building is the headquarters for the US Department of Defense. It is one of the most instantly recognisable buildings in the world. There’s even more than 28 kilometres of corridors, enough to fit 182 of the world’s biggest submarines – the Ohio Class – laid end-to-end. Around 26,000 people work at the Pentagon every day and it has a 67-acre car park.
The Venetian Macao
Location: Cotai Strip, Macao | Size: 980,000 square metres | Rooms: 3,000
The world’s second-largest casino is one of the largest buildings in the world, as well as one of the world’s biggest hotels. The Venice-themed hotel resort opened in 2007 and has over 6,000 slot machines and 800 gambling tables. It includes the Michelin-starred Golden Peacock restaurant and a 15,000 seat event arena.
Aalsmeer Flower Auction
Location: Aalsmeer, Netherlands | Size: 990,000 square metres | Flowers sold daily: 20 million
The world’s largest flower market is close to being the biggest building in the world, with over 12 billion flowers from as far away as Israel, Ecuador, Colombia, Ethiopia and Kenya traded annually. The bidding room resembles a lecture theatre and the buying process is based on a 400-year old system where the price starts high and falls. Buy too quickly and you risk overpaying. Wait too long and you may leave with nothing…
Location: Tehran, Iran | Size: 1,400,000 square metres | Parking spaces: 20,000+
One of the largest buildings in the world, the Iran Mall is the world’s biggest shopping mall. The behemoth building is a shopaholic’s dream with over 700 retail outlets and services. As well as shopping, the Iran Mall includes a traditional bazaar, gardens, a 45,000 volume library, car showrooms, a hotel, cinema, ice rink and bowling alley as well as a state-of-the-art sports medicine centre.
New Century Global Centre
Location: Sichuan, China | Size: 1,760,000 square metres | Height: 100 metres
The biggest building in the world is a huge 18-storey city under one roof. Around a quarter of the vast space is dedicated to shopping but it also includes office space, conference facilities, two commercial centres, a university complex, hotels, a huge food court, an Olympic-sized ice rink and a water park with a 5,000 square metre artificial beach.
Up, Up and Away… The Tallest Building in the World
Alongside the ongoing quest to build the biggest building in the world, the competition to build the highest building in the world and the highest tower in the world goes on and on, or rather up and up!
The highest tower in the world is the neo-futurist £420m Tokyo Skytree, a broadcasting and observation tower in Japan’s capital city. Opened in 2012, it is 634 metres high and the upper observatory at 350 metres features a café and glass-covered skywalk which gives visitors a sensational view of the streets below.
However, sitting on the throne at the top table is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the highest building in the world. At 829.8 metres, it overtook Taipei 101 for the crown in 2009. Named in honour of the President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the $1.5 billion, 57-elevator architectural masterpiece is a mixed-use 304-room hotel and residential complex of 900 apartments. The 163-floor building includes At.mosphere, the world’s highest restaurant on the 122nd floor at 442 metres, and Lounge Burj Khalifa, the world’s highest lounge on the 152nd to 154th floors – almost 600 metres into the Dubai sky.
Reaching For the Stars
Humanity is obsessed with breaking records, only for them to be broken again and again. Today, as advances in engineering, materials and processes move forward at lightning pace, we can build higher, bigger and faster than ever before and the competition to build the tallest building in the world and the largest building in the world continues at pace.