Monday, December 31, 2007

Hong Kong - Ignoring the Sky

Looking at a list of the world's tallest skyscrapers, I find that Hong Kong has several entries in the top 100, including a couple I've never even heard of! My lack of awareness could either indicate how much we now take skyscrapers for granted here, or reflect the fact that we don't often notice how tall our buildings are because Hong Kong's appalling pall of smog hides the upper half of them from our sight.

Another reason may be that, unlike those almost everywhere else in the world, Hong Kong's skyscrapers do not incorporate public observation platforms. In a city that seeks to attract tourists, this seems daft to me, but I suspect the reasons are driven by financial considerations like most things here. Perhaps revenue from tourist admissions can't outweigh the exorbitant rents that high floors can command.

For the record, Hong Kong's entries are:
7. IFC Two
11. Central Plaza
12. Bank of China Tower
17. The Center
27. Nina Tower I
55. Cheung Kong Centre
68. The Cullinan I
69. The Cullinan II
90. Hotel Panorama

Hong Kong therefore accounts for 9% of the world's 100 tallest buildings, with another 7 entries in the next 100. Note that the list counts twin towers as two separate entries; if you prefer to count Petronas Towers (ranked 3 and 4) as a single building, then Hong Kong has two in the top ten.

China is well represented overall, with Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing, Wuhan, Nanning and Guangzhou all in the top 100, as well as our neighbour Shenzhen at number 9. Taipei 101 heads the list, with Shanghai's new World Financial Centre just behind. Remarkably New York's majestic Empire State Building - the first of the world's great skyscrapers, dating back to 1931 - remains in the top ten today, thanks to al-Qaeda. Not for much longer, however - Dubai is now constructing a new building expected to top the list when completed.

Height rankings vary between lists depending on how they define a building - most lists exclude communications towers such as Toronto's CN Tower, the world's tallest free-standing man-made structure (North Dakota's even taller KVLY-TV Mast is supported by cables); how they measure masts, antennae and other twiddly bits on top of the buildings - see here; and when they regard a building as completed. You can find other lists here, here and here.

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