The U.S. Trails Behind in the Global Skyscraper Race

February 23, 2015

New York is most certainly experiencing a skyscraper boom, but you may be surprised to find out that the number of supertalls going up in the city account for only a small percentage of what’s going up globally. According to CBS News, just 20 percent of the world’s towers are being built stateside, and of all the tall buildings completed last year, we had only four in the top 20 (One World Trade Center topped the list). So if we aren’t number one in this race, then where is this new crop of towers creeping up?

As it turns out, most of these buildings are going up in the Eastern Hemisphere, namely China, where demand has gone up as a result of favorable economic and demographic conditions.

“If you predicted the world’s tallest building 30 years ago, you’d have said three things with certainty: You’d have said number one, it’ll be in North America; number two, it will be an office building; and number three, it’ll be built out of steel,” says Antony Wood, executive director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. “Now the exact opposite is true. It’ll probably be in Asia or the Middle East. It’ll be residential or mixed-use, and it’ll probably be concrete construction.”

worlds tallest-buildings

The U.S. led the skyscraper boom for the greater part of the 20th century and 25 years ago accounted for 80 percent of the world’s tallest buildings. Among these were the One World Trade twin towers, the Met Life tower and the Empire State building.

“[But] it’s not the case that America is no longer building tall buildings,” Wood said in the CBS News interview. “It’s just that the agenda for that quest for the title of the world’s tallest has moved on to cities and countries who believe that that’s what they need to put their city on the map.” In effect, these towers become bragging rights and signals of development and progress. Wood adds, “Cities are using skyscrapers to brand themselves as a developed city in the same way that corporate companies in America used skyscrapers to brand their corporation 30, 40, 50 years ago.”

[Via CBS News via TRD]


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