Charting the Last 20 Years of Supertall Skyscrapers - Visual Capitalist
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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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Animation: How the European Map Has Changed Over 2,400 Years

The history of Europe is breathtakingly complex, but this animation helps makes sense of 2,400 years of change on the European map.

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history of europe video

How the European Map Has Changed Over 2,400 Years

The history of Europe is breathtakingly complex. While there are rare exceptions like Andorra and Portugal, which have had remarkably static borders for hundreds of years, jurisdiction over portions of the continent’s landmass have changed hands innumerable times.

Today’s video comes to us from YouTube channel Cottereau, and it shows the evolution of European map borders starting from 400 BC. Empires rise and fall, invasions sweep across the continent, and modern countries slowly begin to take shape (with the added bonus of an extremely dramatic instrumental).

Below are nine highlights and catalysts that shifted the dividing lines of the European map:

146 BC – A Year of Conquest

146 BC was a year of conquest and expansion for the Roman Republic. The fall of Carthage left the Romans in control of territory in North Africa, and the ransack and destruction of the Greek city-state of Corinth also kickstarted an era of Roman influence in that region. These decisive victories paved the way for the Roman Empire’s eventual domination of the Mediterranean.

117 AD – Peak Roman Empire

The peak of the Roman Empire is one of the more dramatic moments shown on this animated European map. At its height, under Trajan, the Roman Empire was a colossal 1.7 million square miles (quite a feat in an era without motorized vehicles and modern communication tools). This enormous empire remained mostly intact until 395, when it was irreparably split into Eastern and Western regions.

Extent of the Roman Empire on European Map

370 AD – The Arrival of the Huns

Spurred on by severe drought conditions in Central Asia, the Huns reached Europe and found a Roman Empire weakened by currency debasement, economic instability, overspending, and increasing incursions from rivals along its borders.

The Huns waged their first attack on the Eastern Roman Empire in 395, but it was not until half a century later—under the leadership of Attila the Hun—that hordes pushed deeper into Europe, sacking and razing cities along the way. The Romans would later get their revenge when they attacked the quarreling Goths and Huns, bouncing the latter out of Central Europe.

1241 – The Mongol Invasion of Europe

In the mid-13th century, the “Golden Horde” led by grandsons of Genghis Khan, roared into Russia and Eastern Europe sacking cities along the way. Facing invasion from formidable Mongol forces, central European princes temporarily placed their regional conflicts aside to defend their territory. Though the Mongols were slowly pushed eastward, they loomed large on the fringes of Europe until almost the 16th century.

1362 – Lithuania

Today, Lithuania is one of Europe’s smallest countries, but at its peak in the middle ages, it was one of the largest states on the continent. A pivotal moment for Lithuania came after a decisive win at the Battle of Blue Waters. This victory stifled the expansion of the Golden Horde, and brought present-day Ukraine into its sphere of influence.

1648 – Kleinstaaterei

The end of the Holy Roman Empire highlights the extreme territorial fragmentation in Germany and neighboring regions, in an era referred to as Kleinstaaterei.

European map with Holy Roman fragments

Even as coherent nation states formed around it, the Holy Roman Empire and its remnants wouldn’t coalesce until Germany rose from the wreckage of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Unification helped position Germany as a major power, and by 1900 the country had the largest economy in Europe.

1919 – The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire—a fixture in Eastern Europe for hundreds of years—was in its waning years by the beginning of the 20th century. The empire had ceded territory in two costly wars with Italy and Balkan states, and by the time the dust cleared on WWI, the borders of the newly minted nation of Turkey began at the furthest edge of continental Europe.

1942 – Expanding and Contracting Germany

At the furthest extent of Axis territory in World War II, Germany and Italy controlled a vast portion of continental Europe. The map below shows occupied land and areas of influence at the height of Germany’s territorial expansion.

Europe at the height of German military expansion

After the war, Germany again became fragmented into occupation zones—this time, overseen by the United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. Germany would not be made whole again until 1990, when a weakening Soviet Union loosened its grip on East Germany.

1991 – Soviet Dissolution

In the decades following WWII, the political boundaries of the European map remained relatively stable—that is, until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Almost overnight, the country’s entire western border splintered into independent nations. When the dust settled, there were 15 breakaway republics, six of which were in Europe.

Soviet Union successions

Bonus: If you liked the video above, be sure to watch this year-by-year account of who ruled territories across Europe.

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Mapped: Second Primary Languages Around the World

This fascinating map highlights the second most commonly spoken primary language in almost nearly every country.

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Second Languages Around the World Shareable

Mapped: Second Primary Languages Around the World

After the primary language, what second languages are used as native tongues in your country?

The answer reveals a lot about history and location. Whether through immigration, colonization, or local culture, a primary language can either spread around the world or remain rooted in place.

This map from MoveHub shows the second most commonly spoken primary language in most countries, using data from the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia as of February 2021.

The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Languages

First, it’s important to differentiate between primary languages and secondary languages.

A primary language—also known as a first or native language—is the language we use most frequently to communicate. These are languages we are usually born with, have a lot of exposure to, and use at home.

On the other hand, a secondary language is one we learn or pick up after our primary language. In many countries, English is the most commonly learned, with close to 1 billion speakers.

But a map of common second languages can simply show just how many countries prioritize learning English, the de-facto international language in many organizations. Instead, this map highlights the movement of people by showing the second-most common primary language.

The Second Most Common Primary Languages by Country

Even when filtering by primary language use, however, English and other Indo-European languages dominate the world.

With 55 countries speaking it as the second-most common primary language, English came out on top.

Top 10 Most Popular Second Primary LanguagesNumber of Countries
English55
French14
Russian13
Spanish8
Creole8
Arabic6
Kurdish4
Portugese4
Italian3
Quechua3

The use of English as a second primary language was primarily concentrated in Western Europe, Northern Africa, and Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Similarly to second-place French with 14 countries and third-place Russian with 13 countries, English was most common in proximity to English-speaking countries or where there was a history of immigration.

Other second-most common primary languages highlighted different cultures within countries, such as China’s second-most common language Cantonese. Alternatively, they showed the primary indigenous language before colonization, such as the Quechua languages in South America.

What other interesting or surprising language patterns can you spot in the map above?

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