Tallest Buildings: Has US Lost The Skyscraper Race?

Tall buildings used to be the most-visible measure of America’s economic might. New York, in particular, was studded with buildings that touched the clouds and tourists from all over the world came to the great city and looked to the sky in wonder.

But those days are gone. Like jobs, corporate headquarters and tax shelters, the tallest buildings are moving off-shore. Today the tallest completed building in America is the Willis Tower in Chicago, formerly the Sears Tower. As big as it is, it only ranks ninth among completed skyscrapers worldwide.

The Willis Tower has 108 stories and is 1,451 feet high, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. That’s impressive, but the Willis Tower — completed in 1974 — will fall to second place in the US with the completion of the One World Trade Center in Manhattan. At 1,776 feet, the New York structure will be the tallest building in the US when finished.

While the newly arising New York skyscraper will be a wonder of construction and an engineering marvel, looking toward the future it will be the ninth-tallest building in the world by 2020 while the Willis Tower will fall to twenty-fourth.

The art of building tall towers is leaving America. If there is a skyscraper race, then we’re losing. If skyscrapers represent economic dominance, political importance, national achievement and international prestige then the country which put a man on the moon needs to do better.

World’s Tallest Buildings

By 2020, if not sooner, the order and locations of the ten tallest buildings in the world will look like this according to the CTBUH:

  1. The Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at 3,281 feet. This is roughly three times the height of the Empire State Building.
  2. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai (AE) at 2,717 feet was completed in 2010.
  3. The Ping An Finance Center Shenzhen (CN) will be 2165 feet tall when completed in 2016.
  4. The Wuhan Greenland Center in Wuhan (CN) will be finished in 2017. With 125 stories it will be 2,087 feet tall.
  5. The Shanghai Tower, Shanghai (CN), will stand 2073 feet tall when finished in 2014.
  6. The Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel in Mecca (SA) was completed in 2012 and is currently the second-tallest building in the world. It standard 1972 feet tall and has 120 stories.
  7. The Goldin Finance 117 building in Tianjin (CN) will be finished in 2016 and stand 1,957 feet tall.
  8. The Lotte World Tower in Seoul (KR) will be 1,819 feet tall when completed in 2015.
  9. In ninth place will be New York’s One World Trade Center. When finished in 2014 it will have 104 floors and stand 1,776 feet tall.
  10. In tenth place we have a tie between the CTF Guangzhou building in Guangzhou (CN) and the Tianjin Crow Tai Fook Binhai Center in Tianjin (CN). Both will be 1,739 feet tall but the first building will have 111 stories while the second will contain 97 stories.

The structures above are notable for height, but the world’s largest building in terms of square footage isn’t on the list. It’s the New Century Global Center in ChengDu, China — a building which has roughly three times the square footage of the Pentagon.

Let’s face it, America needs a new entry into the tallest buildings race. C’mon New York. C’mon Chicago. Let’s show the world what we’ve got. This is a competition that the US ought to win.

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