Towering above urban landscapes, these titans of steel and glass dominate the skyline, reflecting humankind’s incessant desire to push boundaries and reach for the heavens. The tallest skyscrapers in the world serve as a phenomenal fusion of cutting-edge technology, innovative design, and unparalleled construction techniques, representing megalithic milestones in the quest for vertical dominance.
Although the exact origin of the word ‘skyscraper’ is uncertain, it’s believed to have first appeared in print in The Chicago Daily in February 1883 in an article about the ‘high building craze.’
Two years later, the Home Insurance Building opened in Chicago. Ten stories and forty-two metres high, it was miniscule by today’s standards but set a precedent that shows no sign of abating.
It’s been suggested that by 2050, something like six billion people will be living in cities, so the only option is to build up instead of out. So without further ado, here are the world’s super-tall skyscrapers as well as a list of the tallest skyscrapers under construction.
Location: St. Petersburg, Russia | Height: 462 metres | Floors: 90 | Opened: 2019
The world’s northernmost super skyscraper is also Europe’s tallest building and one of the world’s highest skyscrapers. The elegant building includes offices, co-working space, a sports centre and a children’s science centre, as well as a huge exhibition hall and an observation deck at 357 metres above ground level.
Designed and built in the neo-futurist style, it contains approximately 163,000 square metres of floor space and – to account for the bitterly cold Russian winters – the exterior facade of the Lakhta Center heats itself to prevent a build-up of ice.
One World Trade Center
Location: New York, USA | Height: 541.3 metres | Floors: 99 | Opened: 2014
The $3.9 billion One WTC sits on the site of the World Trade Center buildings and is the tallest building in the US, the tallest in the Western Hemisphere and one of the biggest skyscrapers in the world.
The height of 1,776 feet is symbolic as the year of American independence, and the lifts are so fast they can travel from the very bottom to the very top in just sixty seconds.
Makkah Royal Clock Tower
Location: Mecca, Saudi Arabia | Height: 601 metres | Floors: 123 | Opened: 2012
Part of the $15 billion Abraj Al Bait project, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower is the world’s biggest clock tower and one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. As the tallest building in Saudi Arabia, it overlooks Mecca’s Grand Mosque and is home to a five-star hotel, a seven-storey, 600-outlet shopping mall, supermarkets and a hospital.
Location: Shanghai, China | Height: 632 metres | Floors: 133 | Opened: 2015
China’s tallest building is one of a collection of super-tall skyscrapers in Shanghai’s Pudong district that includes the Jin Mao Tower at 420.5 metres, and the Shanghai World Financial Center at 492 metres.
As well as being a staggering feat of architecture and design, Shanghai Tower is home to the second-fastest lifts in the world which travel at 20.5 metres per second, or almost 74 km/h.
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | Height: 678.9 metres | Floors: 123 | Opened: 2023
Translated as ‘independence’, Merdeka 118 is southeast Asia’s tallest building, and one of the world’s highest skyscrapers. Ninety lifts ferry thousands of people to offices, hotel suites and apartments, and the building will also contain fine-dining restaurants, skydecks, leisure facilities and a VIP lounge on the top floor.
The diamond-shaped facade – containing 114,000 square metres of glass – was designed to showcase the diversity of the Malaysian people.
Location: Dubai, UAE | Height: 829.8 metres | Floors: 163 | Opened: 2010
The Burj Khalifa is the tallest skyscraper in the world. Named in honour of the President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the 57-elevator architectural masterpiece is a mixed-use hotel and residential complex.
The 163-floor building includes 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. The Burj Khalifa is over twice as tall as the Empire State Building in New York, one of the biggest skyscrapers in the world until 1970.
The Tallest Skyscrapers Under Construction
In order to respond to the challenges of congestion in the world’s major cities, architects, civil engineers and town planners often aim high. Very high.
Verified facts about the projects on the list of tallest skyscrapers under construction are scarce, but the tallest currently documented is the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia. Although construction is on hold at time of writing, it’s planned to be the first building on earth to top the mythical one kilometre mark. It’s due to be at least 1,008 metres tall with 165 floors and a floor area of almost a quarter of a million square metres.
Of the tallest skyscrapers under construction with proposed completion dates, the 400-metre cube-shaped Mukaab in Saudi Arabia (2030), the 423-metre JPMorgan Chase Building in New York, the 436-metre One Bangkok in Thailand and the 499.2-metre Suzhou Zhongnan Center in China, all due for completion in 2025, are the standout super-tall skyscrapers.
Is the Sky the Limit?
The future of skyscrapers and the race to reach new heights seem to be limited only by the boundaries of human ingenuity and the advancements in engineering, materials, and construction technology.
As architects, scientists and engineers continue to innovate, we can expect to see even taller, more efficient, and environmentally sustainable buildings in the years to come.
While it’s difficult to predict precisely how much taller skyscrapers can get, one thing is certain: the fascination with reaching the sky will continue to drive our urban landscapes to evolve in ways we can only imagine.