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Don’t look down! Tallest towers of the modern world

6 September 2018

Happy skyscraper day to all! Well, it may not mean that much to the regular layperson, but to the architects who help change the skylines of the world, it's probably one of the best days of the year (I assume, as I only build towers with words rather than actual materials). Skyscrapers have become a must-have of the modern city, and they're only getting bigger as our technology gets better. The first modern skyscraper was only 10 stories tall, built in Chicago in 1857. Compare that with the current tallest, the Burj Khalifa, which is 163 stories tall… you get the idea. And with that, I launch into my personal favourite list of skyscrapers around the world. Just remember, don't look down.

The One World Trade Center ('Freedom Tower'), New York, U.S.A.

This one holds the title of being the tallest office building in the world, but it's so much more than that. This is a monument to human optimism and resilience, having been built next to the site of the Twin Towers, which infamously fell on 9/11, in a terror attack that killed 3,000 and still claims lives today. The awe-inspiring glass fronted building has been specially designed by architect David Childs, not only to give the effect of two towers merged into one symbol of unity, but also so that if one stands at the base of the building and looks up, it looks like it's going on forever. With the weight of its history, the meaning of its construction, and the beauty of its façade, the One World Trade Center truly does deserve its spot on this list.

Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan

Before being beaten out by the Burj Khalifa, Taipei 101 was he tallest building in the world, but that's not what I love it so much. I like it because it looks like the perfect place for a supervillain to plot world domination: tall, gorgeous, and so, so much taller than the other buildings around it. The most striking part of Taipei 101 is just how perfectly it mirrors traditional architecture, but in an incredibly modern way, with pagoda style tiers outlined in thin, almost bamboo looking steel. The 101 floors is to celebrate the passing of time, as well as make a nod to the binary system of computers, and the tower, along with the park at the bottom of it, can be used as a sundial. The Ruyi symbols on the tower are to promote healing, protection, and fulfilment in one's career. Taipei 101 is in essence one of the best ways a country has embraced both its future and its incredible past.

The Shard, London, UK

Out of all the innovative skyscrapers in London, the Shard is a lot of peoples favourite. Perhaps because it doesn't melt cars like the Walkie-Talkie does, and because the Gherkin isn't as big. The Shard, designed by Renzo Piano, is the tallest building in the UK and the EU, and it has a lovely restaurant and observation deck on the top. Although it's a relatively new addition to the London skyline, it has become an undoubtedly iconic part of it. My personal favourite thing about the Shard is that it is built in a way that looks like enormous glass triangles are simply resting against the structure. That, and the views across London from the viewing deck are absolutely unmatched.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE

It would be incredibly remiss of me to not feature the tallest building in the world. One of my favourite things about Dubai is that it's constantly in a competition with itself to see how far it can push the limits of human engineering, resulting in a city that is a modern steel jungle. Not only that, but the building itself is incredibly beautiful. It has been designed to mirror Islamic architecture in an entirely modern way, with the spiralling design mirroring the minaret at the Great Mosque of Samarra. However, it is just the latest in a long line of enormous buildings in Dubai, and I assume that sometime in the near future they will build a structure so tall, we'll have a whole new batch of world languages to learn.

Hall of Shame

432 Park Avenue, New York, USA

I would like to sincerely apologise to architect Rafael Viñoly (who also designed the Walkie-Talkie in London) for this, but I truly dislike 432 Park Avenue and I must tell everyone about this, so it's going into a specially made category all on its own. Now, this is Manhattan, and it's not completely out of the ordinary that there are skyscrapers, but this skinny concrete and steel monstrosity has been unceremoniously shoved in a fairly low (for New York) area. To make matters worse, a historic hotel and several historic townhouses were demolished to make way for it. It's so jarring and out of place, one can only assume people live here because it means they don't have to see it.

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