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Charting the Last 20 Years of Supertall Skyscrapers

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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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