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Charting the Last 20 Years of Supertall Skyscrapers

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20 years of supertall skyscrapers

20 years of supertall skyscrapers

Charting the Last 20 Years of Supertall Skyscrapers

At the end of the 20th century, supertall skyscrapers—buildings exceeding 300 meters in height⁠—were still somewhat of a novelty in the world.

Only 24 supertall skyscrapers existed at that time, with half of them located in U.S. cities. That list included iconic structures such as the Empire State Building and Willis Tower, as well as newer landmarks like Atlanta’s Bank of America Plaza.

According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) database, the following buildings comprised the world’s full roster of supertall skyscrapers in 1999:

Building NameCityHeight (m)Height (ft)Completion
One World Trade CenterNew York City 🇺🇸4171,3681972
Two World Trade CenterNew York City 🇺🇸4151,3621973
Petronas Twin Tower 1Kuala Lumpur 🇲🇾4521,4831998
Petronas Twin Tower 2Kuala Lumpur 🇲🇾4521,4831998
Willis TowerChicago 🇺🇸4421,4511974
Jin Mao TowerShanghai 🇨🇳4211,3801999
CITIC PlazaGuangzhou 🇨🇳3901,2801996
Shun Hing SquareShenzhen 🇨🇳3841,2601996
Empire State BuildingNew York City 🇺🇸3811,2501931
Central PlazaHong Kong 🇭🇰3741,2271992
Bank of China TowerHong Kong 🇭🇰3671,2051990
85 Sky TowerKaohsiung 🇨🇳3481,1401997
Aon CenterChicago 🇺🇸3461,1361973
The CenterHong Kong 🇭🇰3461,1351998
875 North Michigan AvenueChicago 🇺🇸3441,1281969
Burj Al ArabDubai 🇦🇪3211,0531999
Chrysler BuildingNew York City 🇺🇸3191,0461930
Bank of America PlazaAtlanta 🇺🇸3121,0231992
U.S. Bank TowerLos Angeles 🇺🇸3101,0181990
The Franklin - North TowerChicago 🇺🇸3071,0071989
JPMorgan Chase TowerHouston 🇺🇸3051,0021982
Baiyoke Tower IIBangkok 🇹🇭3049971997
Two Prudential PlazaChicago 🇺🇸3039951990
Wells Fargo PlazaHouston 🇺🇸3029921983

With the exception of the original World Trade Center towers in New York, all these iconic structures are still standing. Of course, there is now a much bigger cohort of skyscrapers sharing the skyline with them today.

20 Years of Supertall Skyscraper Construction

In the 21st century, at least one supertall skyscraper has been completed every year. In 2019 alone, the world built more of these incredible structures than the total that existed in 1999.

Here are the 20 tallest skyscrapers completed in the past 20 years:

Building NameCityHeight (m)Height (ft)Completion
Burj KhalifaDubai 🇦🇪8282,7172010
Shanghai TowerShanghai 🇨🇳6322,0732015
Makkah Royal Clock TowerMecca 🇸🇦6011,9722012
Ping An Finance CenterShenzhen 🇨🇳5991,9652017
Lotte World TowerSeoul 🇰🇷5551,8192017
One World Trade CenterNew York City 🇺🇸5411,7762014
Guangzhou CTF Finance CentreGuangzhou 🇨🇳5301,7392016
Tianjin CTF Finance CentreTianjin 🇨🇳5301,7392019
CITIC TowerBeijing 🇨🇳5281,7312018
TAIPEI 101Taipei 🇹🇼5081,6672004
Shanghai World Financial CenterShanghai 🇨🇳4921,6142008
International Commerce CentreHong Kong 🇭🇰4841,5882010
Lakhta CenterSt. Petersburg 🇷🇺4621,5162019
Vincom Landmark 81Ho Chi Minh City 🇻🇳4611,5132018
Changsha IFS Tower T1Changsha 🇨🇳4521,4832018
Suzhou IFSSuzhou 🇨🇳4501,4762019
Zifeng TowerNanjing 🇨🇳4501,4762010
The Exchange 106Kuala Lumpur 🇲🇾4451,4602019
KK100Shenzhen 🇨🇳4421,4492011
Guangzhou International Finance CenterGuangzhou 🇨🇳4391,4392010

With activity that reflects the country’s meteoric economic rise, China is an obvious point of focus in the skyscraper conversation. The world’s most populous nation been on a remarkable building tear in recent years, with activity spread throughout the country. No fewer than 30 Chinese cities added supertall skyscrapers to their skylines in the past two decades.

Vertical construction in the United States has been primarily focused in one of the original skyscraper hubs, New York City. In the long, storied history of skyscraper construction in New York City, it’s interesting to note that 8 of its 10 tallest buildings were built in the past 15 years.

Of course, no conversation about skyscrapers is complete without mentioning Dubai. No city on Earth can match the sheer magnitude of supertall skyscraper construction there⁠—a remarkable feat considering the UAE’s size compared to the other two leaders, China and the United States. Over that past 20 years, Dubai added 23 supertall skyscrapers to its skyline, including four that are taller than the Empire State Building. Remarkably, there are another ten buildings under construction today that surpass the 300 meter mark.

What the Future Holds

The process from conceiving to completing supertall skyscrapers can take many years⁠—especially as these ambitious structures reach higher into the sky. For example, the Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen was first proposed in 2008, but not completed until 2017.

This multi-year process means that the pipeline of upcoming skyscrapers is very predictable. According to CTBUH, there are currently 132 supertall skyscrapers in various phases of construction around the world right now. That’s more than five times the number of existing supertall structures that existed at the dawn of the new millennium. This includes the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, which will be the first skyscraper to hit the one kilometer mark – shattering the record height set by the Burj Khalifa.

Over the next 20 years, as economic fortunes shift and architectural innovations advance, it remains to be seen what heights future skyscrapers will reach.

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Misc

A Visual Guide to Human Emotion

For years, humans have attempted to categorize and codify human emotion. Here are those attempts, visualized.

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visual guide to human emotions wheel

A Visual Guide to Human Emotion

Despite vast differences in culture around the world, humanity’s DNA is 99.9% similar.

There are few attributes more central and universal to the human experience than our emotions. Of course, the broad spectrum of emotions we’re capable of experiencing can be difficult to articulate. That’s where this brilliant visualization by the Junto Institute comes in.

This circular visualization is the latest in an ongoing attempt to neatly categorize the full range of emotions in a logical way.

A Taxonomy of Human Emotion

Our understanding has come a long way since William James proposed four basic emotions – fear, grief, love, and rage—though these core emotions still form much of the foundation for current frameworks.

The wheel visualization above identifies six root emotions:

  1. Fear
  2. Anger
  3. Sadness
  4. Surprise
  5. Joy
  6. Love

From these six emotions, more nuanced descriptions emerge, such as jealousy as a subset of anger, and awe-struck as a subset of surprise. In total, there are 102 second- and third-order emotions listed on this emotion wheel.

Reinventing the Feeling Wheel

The concept of mapping the range of human emotions on a wheel picked up traction in the 1980s, and has evolved ever since.

One of these original concepts was developed by American psychologist Robert Plutchik, who mapped eight primary emotions—anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy. These “high survival value” emotions were believed to be the most useful in keeping our ancient ancestors alive.

plutchik emotion wheel

Another seminal graphic concept was developed by author Dr. Gloria Willcox. This version of the emotions wheel has spawned dozens of similar designs, as people continue to try to improve on the concept.

willcox feelings wheel

Further Exploration

The more we research human emotion, the more nuanced our understanding becomes in terms of how we react to the world around us.

Researchers at UC Berkeley used 2,185 short video clips to elicit emotions from study participants. Study participants rated the videos using 27 dimensions of self-reported emotional experience, and the results were mapped in an incredible interactive visualization. It is interesting to note that some video clips garnered a wide array of responses, while other clips elicit a near unanimous emotional response.

Here are some example videos and the distribution of responses:

reported emotional reaction to video clips

The data visualization clusters these types of videos together, giving us a unique perspective on how people respond to certain types of stimuli.

Much like emotion itself, our desire to understand and classify the world around us is powerful and uniquely human.

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Markets

Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke Points

Ocean shipping is the primary mode of international trade. This map identifies maritime choke points that pose a risk to this complex logistic network.

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maritime choke points

Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke Points

Maritime transport is an essential part of international trade—approximately 80% of global merchandise is shipped via sea.

Because of its importance, commercial shipping relies on strategic trade routes to move goods efficiently. These waterways are used by thousands of vessels a year—but it’s not always smooth sailing. In fact, there are certain points along these routes that pose a risk to the whole system.

Here’s a look at the world’s most vulnerable maritime bottlenecks—also known as choke points—as identified by GIS.

What’s a Choke Point?

Choke points are strategic, narrow passages that connect two larger areas to one another. When it comes to maritime trade, these are typically straits or canals that see high volumes of traffic because of their optimal location.

Despite their convenience, these vital points pose several risks:

  • Structural risks: As demonstrated in the recent Suez Canal blockage, ships can crash along the shore of a canal if the passage is too narrow, causing traffic jams that can last for days.
  • Geopolitical risks: Because of their high traffic, choke points are particularly vulnerable to blockades or deliberate disruptions during times of political unrest.

The type and degree of risk varies, depending on location. Here’s a look at some of the biggest threats, at eight of the world’s major choke points.

maritime choke point risks

Because of their high risk, alternatives for some of these key routes have been proposed in the past—for instance, in 2013 Nicaraguan Congress approved a $40 billion dollar project proposal to build a canal that was meant to rival the Panama Canal.

As of today, it has yet to materialize.

A Closer Look: Key Maritime Choke Points

Despite their vulnerabilities, these choke points remain critical waterways that facilitate international trade. Below, we dive into a few of the key areas to provide some context on just how important they are to global trade.

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is a lock-type canal that provides a shortcut for ships traveling between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Ships sailing between the east and west coasts of the U.S. save over 8,000 nautical miles by using the canal—which roughly shortens their trip by 21 days.

In 2019, 252 million long tons of goods were transported through the Panama Canal, which generated over $2.6 billion in tolls.

The Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is an Egyptian waterway that connects Europe to Asia. Without this route, ships would need to sail around Africa, which would add approximately seven days to their trips. In 2019, nearly 19,000 vessels, and 1 billion tons of cargo, traveled through the Suez Canal.

In an effort to mitigate risk, the Egyptian government embarked on a major expansion project for the canal back in 2015. But, given the recent blockage caused by a Taiwanese container ship, it’s clear that the waterway is still vulnerable to obstruction.

The Strait of Malacca

At its smallest point, the Strait of Malacca is approximately 1.5 nautical miles, making it one of the world’s narrowest choke points. Despite its size, it’s one of Asia’s most critical waterways, since it provides a critical connection between China, India, and Southeast Asia. This choke point creates a risky situation for the 130,000 or so ships that visit the Port of Singapore each year.

The area is also known to have problems with piracy—in 2019, there were 30 piracy incidents, according to private information group ReCAAP ISC.

The Strait of Hormuz

Controlled by Iran, the Strait of Hormuz links the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, ultimately draining into the Arabian Sea. It’s a primary vein for the world’s oil supply, transporting approximately 21 million barrels per day.

Historically, it’s also been a site of regional conflict. For instance, tankers and commercial ships were attacked in that area during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is another primary waterway for the world’s oil and natural gas. Nestled between Africa and the Middle East, the critical route connects the Mediterranean Sea (via the Suez Canal) to the Indian Ocean.

Like the Strait of Malacca, it’s well known as a high-risk area for pirate attacks. In May 2020, a UK chemical tanker was attacked off the coast of Yemen–the ninth pirate attack in the area that year.

Due to the strategic nature of the region, there is a strong military presence in nearby Djibouti, including China’s first ever foreign military base.

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