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A Changing Skyline: The World’s Tallest Buildings Over Time

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For thousands of years, the technological advancements needed to build taller structures only inched forward. For example, the Great Pyramid of Giza, erected over 4,000 years ago at a height of 481 ft (147 m), amazingly made the list of the world’s 10 tallest buildings all the way until 1889.

Improvements in height had been mostly incremental for centuries.

Consider the Washington Monument, which was the world’s second-tallest structure leading into the 20th century and still the tallest standing stone structure today. Completed in 1884, it stands 555 feet (169 m) tall, only barely edging out the Great Pyramid.

The Tallest Buildings Over Time

Modern skyscrapers are mind-blowing in comparison. Look no further than the Jeddah Tower, which is currently being built in Saudi Arabia.

Expected to be finished in 2019 at a height of 3,280 ft (1,000 m), the Jeddah Tower will be the world’s first building over 1 km in height. Equivalent to nearly seven Great Pyramids of Giza stacked on top of one another, it will be the new centerpiece of the Middle Eastern desert, as well as the hub of the $20 billion development known as the Jeddah Economic City.

Here’s how the rankings for the world’s tallest buildings have changed over the last century or so:

A Changing Skyline: The World's Tallest Buildings Over Time

In the modern era, the rankings can change very quickly. For example, the Sears Tower was built at a height of 1,450 ft (442 m) in 1974 and held the title of the tallest building for nearly 25 years. Today, the building (now known as the Willis Tower) does not even make the top 10 list. Within five years, it is not expected even make the list of the world’s 20 tallest buildings.

So where are the newest megatowers being built?

Primarily in Asia and the Middle East, it turns out. It is estimated that by 2020, that seven of the world’s ten tallest towers will reside in Asia, while three will be located in the Middle East in countries such as UAE or Saudi Arabia.

The tallest building in the Americas is currently One World Trade Center in New York City, which stands 1,776 ft (541 m) above the streets of Manhattan.

Original graphic by: Alan’s Factory Outlet

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Politics

Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

How many democracies does the world have? This visual shows the change since 1945 and the top nations becoming more (and less) democratic.

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Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

The end of World War II in 1945 was a turning point for democracies around the world.

Before this critical turning point in geopolitics, democracies made up only a small number of the world’s countries, both legally and in practice. However, over the course of the next six decades, the number of democratic nations would more than quadruple.

Interestingly, studies have found that this trend has recently reversed as of the 2010s, with democracies and non-democracies now in a deadlock.

In this visualization, Staffan Landin uses data from V-DEM’s Electoral Democratic Index (EDI) to highlight the changing face of global politics over the past two decades and the nations that contributed the most to this change.

The Methodology

V-DEM’s EDI attempts to measure democratic development in a comprehensive way, through the contributions of 3,700 experts from countries around the world.

Instead of relying on each nation’s legally recognized system of government, the EDI analyzes the level of electoral democracy in countries on a range of indicators, including:

  • Free and fair elections
  • Rule of law
  • Alternative sources of information and association
  • Freedom of expression

Countries are assigned a score on a scale from 0 to 1, with higher scores indicating a higher level of democracy. Each is also categorized into four types of functional government, from liberal and electoral democracies to electoral and closed autocracies.

Which Countries Have Declined the Most?

The EDI found that numerous countries around the world saw declines in democracy over the past two decades. Here are the 10 countries that saw the steepest decline in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Lost
🇭🇺 Hungary0.800.46-34
🇵🇱 Poland0.890.59-30
🇷🇸 Serbia0.610.34-27
🇹🇷 Turkey0.550.28-27
🇮🇳 India0.710.44-27
🇲🇱 Mali0.510.25-26
🇹🇭 Thailand0.440.20-24
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.380.16-22
🇧🇷 Brazil0.880.66-22
🇧🇯 Benin0.640.42-22

Central and Eastern Europe was home to three of the countries seeing the largest declines in democracy. Hungary, Poland, and Serbia lead the table, with Hungary and Serbia in particular dropping below scores of 0.5.

Some of the world’s largest countries by population also decreased significantly, including India and Brazil. Across most of the top 10, the “freedom of expression” indicator was hit particularly hard, with notable increases in media censorship to be found in Afghanistan and Brazil.

Countries Becoming More Democratic

Here are the 10 countries that saw the largest increase in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Gained
🇦🇲 Armenia0.340.74+40
🇫🇯 Fiji0.140.40+26
🇬🇲 The Gambia0.250.50+25
🇸🇨 Seychelles0.450.67+22
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.280.48+20
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.400.56+16
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.420.57+15
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau0.410.56+15
🇲🇩 Moldova0.590.74+15
🇳🇵 Nepal0.460.59+13

Armenia, Fiji, and Seychelles saw significant improvement in the autonomy of their electoral management bodies in the last 10 years. Partially as a result, both Armenia and Seychelles have seen their scores rise above 0.5.

The Gambia also saw great improvement across many election indicators, including the quality of voter registries, vote buying, and election violence. It was one of five African countries to make the top 10 most improved democracies.

With the total number of democracies and non-democracies almost tied over the past four years, it is hard to predict the political atmosphere in the future.

Want to know more about democracy in today’s world? Check out our global breakdown of each country’s democratic score in Mapped: The State of Global Democracy in 2022.
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