World's Tallest Buildings
For hundreds of years, builders have set their sights on creating structures that touch the sky. From the ancient pyramids to the sleek, modern skyscrapers we see today, humans have always felt an urge to build massive monuments that impress the masses.
Today, the world’s most stunning skyscrapers are slightly less mysterious than the buildings of days gone by; most of them are made of concrete, steel and composite materials. But that doesn’t make them any less intriguing. Modern architects and builders are still captivated by the challenges that come with constructing taller and taller buildings. And they’re still inspired to dream bigger.
Using data from The Skyscraper Center, a global database managed by the nonprofit Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, join us as we step inside and discover the stories behind the world’s tallest buildings. From highly energy-efficient spaces to pioneering designs of their time, these impressive feats of architecture are taking skylines around the world by storm.
30. Empire State Building, New York City, United States
From the time it was completed in 1931 until 1971, New York City’s Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world. More impressive is the fact that the 102-floor steel structure took only 14 months to construct.
The Art Deco building has long been an American icon with its elaborate ornamental spire. While some believe that the peak was used to anchor dirigible airships, the architectural feature was actually added to ensure the Empire State Building would be taller than the neighboring Chrysler Building.
In 2009, the building’s owner began a $106 million project to retrofit the historic structure with energy-efficient systems. Today, the Empire State Building is one of the most sustainable buildings in the world. The project included improvements like a full reconstruction of all 6,514 of the building’s windows to dual-pane frames. These improvements continue to save the building an estimated $4.4 million annually, and helped make it the tallest LEED certified building in the United States.
29. Burj Mohammed Bin Rashid, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
The Burj Mohammed Bin Rashid is located in the heart of Abu Dhabi’s old Central Market, and is part of the World Trade Center complex. While the building design includes a hotel and office space, it is connected to the rest of the complex through a bridge system that gives visitors access to a traditional Arab market, seven floors of retail space and a garden rooftop.
Completed in 2014, the 88-story building is designed to seamlessly blend into its desert surroundings. The tower’s sleek, reflective facade remains low-maintenance despite the city’s dusty surroundings, and its waved, billowing sides makes the structure look almost like a mirage in the desert heat.
The building’s occupants are protected from the same harsh glare and excessive heat thanks to energy-efficient engineering and internal shading features.
28. Eton Place Dalian Tower 1, Dalian, China
Also known as Supertower One, Eton Place Dalian Tower 1 is the tallest building in Dalian, completed in 2016 as an element of the city’s fast-growing central business district.
The 80-story asymmetrical tower sets a new precedent for healthy urban living in Dalian, offering sky lobbies, green spaces, observation decks and other communal gathering spaces. Eton Place is also fully outfitted with luxury retail amenities including two hotels, pools, restaurants, shopping and a sky garden that extends throughout the building.
The natural elements continue outside thanks to the tower’s largely glass exterior, which provides stunning panoramic views of the city skyline, harbor at Dalian Bay and adjacent mountains.
27. Shun Hing Square, Shenzhen, China
Completed in 1996, Shun Hing Square — also known as the Diwang Building — was built at a rate of four floors every nine days. Standing at 69 floors, the entire complex only took about 40 months to complete from start to finish.
The building’s striking green glass exterior coupled with its spires that resemble syringes make it a memorable addition to the Shenzhen skyline. The building includes ample office space, residential apartment units, a shopping complex and a swimming pool.
Shun Hing Square also includes a top-floor observation deck called the Meridian View Centre that gives visitors unprecedented views of the city.
26. CITIC Plaza, Guangzhou, China
Since its completed in 1996, the CITIC Plaza has become a centerpiece of Guangzhou’s urban redesign. Standing 1,280 feet tall, the striking design of this skyscraper is the first thing travelers see when they emerge from the city’s main transit hub.
Located in the center of a collection of city gardens and boulevards, the building has become a centralizing force for the city’s Tie He development. CITIC fits into the larger development in a “circle-on-square geometry” that symbolizes the unity of sky and land in Chinese culture. The design of the tower itself is sleek, modern and pragmatic, its symmetrical glass facade giving the skyline an icon while serving as a symbol of prosperity for surrounding developments.
25. 23 Marina, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
If you’re looking for luxury residential space, look no further than Dubai’s 23 Marina, located in close proximity to some of the city’s most popular attractions, like the Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Media City.
Completed in 2012, the 88-floor tower includes spacious apartments that feature opulent amenities like marble interiors, private elevators and balconies with plunge pools. The elaborate skyscraper also features a six-story glass lobby with cascading waterfall features, as well as an outdoor swimming pool, health club, spa, running track and children’s pool. It remains one of the tallest residential buildings in the Middle East.
24. Two International Finance Centre, Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong’s Two International Finance Centre was designed to complement the natural beauty of its surroundings. The building was completed in 2003 as part of the Hong Kong Central Station Development and includes 88 floors of office space.
Located along the banks of Victoria Harbor in the city’s Central District, the tower’s obelisk form gives the impression of upward motion. The metal plating between the building’s windows is curved, reflecting the water below, and painted a silver color that shimmers like the scales of a fish.
The openness of the tower’s peak further integrates the building with its surroundings and makes it seem as if the tower simply disappears into the sky behind it.
23. Al Hamra Tower, Kuwait City, Kuwait
Since its completion in 2011, the spiraling, geometric Al Hamra Tower has become a symbol of national pride in its home country.
The building’s design seems almost to unfold from its center, with sides that curl and curve in on themselves like a vortex. The 80-floor office building has an almost entirely concrete facade that helps protect the structure from extreme heat during the day and retain interior warmth on chilly evenings. The tower’s design also features angled window openings that help cut down on glare and reduce the impact of the harsh sunlight.
22. Princess Tower, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai’s Princess Tower encompasses everything residents could want when it comes to luxury high-rise living. The skyscraper is located in close proximity to many of the city’s cultural amenities, and includes an on-site tram that connects the building’s residents to the surrounding neighborhood.
Similarly to the buildings that flank it, the Princess Tower has an elaborate facade that includes inset balconies, towering windows and a crown with two rings of delicate prongs. The 101-floor tower was the tallest all-residential tower in the world when it was completed in 2012. But it has since been surpassed by New York City’s 432 Park Avenue.
21. Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai, China
Completed in 1999, Shanghai’s Jin Mao Tower is the tallest and longest-operating building to receive LEED Gold certification. The 88-floor building is equipped with a computerized energy management system that measures and regulates electric, water and natural gas usage through more than 300 sensors throughout the building.
Each month the skyscraper’s managers convene to review the energy usage to ensure the tower maintains its exceptionally low carbon footprint for a building of its size. In August of 2013, the building’s managers decided to publicize their commitment to indoor air quality by tracking changes in the ecosystem and sharing it daily on social media.
20. Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago, United States
Built on the site of the former Chicago Sun-Times building, the Trump International Hotel and Tower was completed in 2009. The tower includes the 339-room Trump International Hotel, 486 luxury condos, expansive retail space along the Chicago River and almost 1,000 parking spaces in addition to banquet space, a health club, a spa and private lounges. The building was designed with sustainability in mind, and the structure’s cooling system is run with water from the adjacent river.
Through the development of the area surrounding the building, pedestrian access along the riverfront has expanded exponentially. The tower’s exterior promenade allows for a connection to Michigan Avenue and State Street, connecting two of downtown Chicago’s busiest thoroughfares.
19. Marina 101, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Completed in 2017, Dubai’s Marina 101 is one of the newer buildings to top the list of the world’s tallest towers. Sitting on the shores of the Persian Gulf, it is flanked by other high-rise complexes and Palm Jumeirah Island, a manmade island complex featuring luxury accommodations and amenities. The 101-floor building is home to apartments as well as the Middle East’s first Hard Rock Hotel.
Marina 101 is the second tallest building in Dubai, bested only by the world’s tallest structure, the Burj Khalifa. But what it lacks in height, the building makes up for in interesting visual design. The tower’s two-toned aluminium panels create a dramatic, flared design that adds to the visual interest of the city’s skyline. At night, the tower’s crown is illuminated and lights the sky with its impressive four-point peak.
18. 432 Park Avenue, New York City, United State
Completed in 2015, this super-slim skyscraper provides luxury residential space overlooking Central Park in New York City’s Midtown neighborhood. The gridded glass and concrete exterior juts into the skyline with straight, clean lines. Standing 85 stories tall, the tower offers light, airy living space with a design that mimics the city’s gridded street system.
While the building may seem simplistic from the outside, the interior is actually composed of seven independent towers stacked on top of each other. Cradled in the grid of the concrete exterior, the areas where the stacked floors come together leave spaces in the building’s core where it is exposed to the elements. This unique design reduces wind pressure on the building and makes the skinny structure more stable.
17. Guangzhou International Finance Center, Guangzhou, China
While it has slipped to number 17, when the Guangzhou International Finance Center was completed in 2010, the building was the fourth tallest in China and the ninth tallest in the world.
Standing 1,439 feet tall with 103 floors, this building has become a recognizable landmark in the Guangzhou skyline. Uniquely, the building does not have a spire; its highest point is a helicopter landing pad that is suspended over the tower’s central atrium. The building’s atrium was designed to fill all aspects of the tower with natural light, and is taller than London’s St. Paul's Cathedral, including its dome.
It may no longer be among the top 10 tallest, but the Guangzhou International Finance Center does utilize the world’s tallest constructed diagrid, a framework of diagonally intersecting metal beams that is clearly visible in the lattice pattern of the building’s facade.
16. KK100, Shenzhen, China
Completed in 2011, Shenzhen’s KK100 straddles the city’s business and residential districts. The 100-story building was built on a podium that connects retail and public transportation to the rest of the tower’s mixed-use space. While the bottom floors of the building are office space, the upper floors are home to the St. Regis Hotel, which features a sky garden lobby on the building’s 94th floor.
The curved design of KK100 is meant to resemble a fountain of water and symbolize the wealth and prosperity of the Chinese city. The building was also designed with the environment in mind. The building has a free-cooling system as well as exterior vertical and horizontal fins that can be used to reduce glare for its tenants.
15. Willis Tower, Chicago, United States
Formerly known as the Sears Tower, this Chicago icon dating back to 1974 held the title of tallest building in the world for almost 25 years. Standing at 1,451 feet tall, the building helped set the standard for the skyscrapers it would subsequently inspire. The Willis Tower boasts 108 floors of mostly office space, and was the first building of its kind to use a bundled tube structure to achieve greater heights.
Today, visitors can opt to visit the observation deck, or take their experience one step further with a step off The Ledge, a series of transparent rooms outside of the tower that gives visitors a view to the street below.
14. Zifeng Tower, Nanjing, China
The Zifeng Tower in the capital city of China’s eastern Jiangsu province is actually comprised of several buildings straddling two sites. Completed in 2010, the tallest of the connected buildings stands at 1,476 feet tall. The 66-story building is primarily office space, but also includes an elegant InterContinental hotel.
The Zifeng Tower was designed to echo the layout of the city, and maximizes picturesque views for its tenants and visitors. To add texture to the towering facade, modular glass panels protrude from the building, highlighting its elevators. Natural elements were also incorporated into the tower through ground level gardens that evolve into sky gardens wrapping around to the top of the tower.
12 & 13. Petronas Twin Tower 1 & 2, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Petronas Twin Towers hold two spots on the list of the world’s tallest buildings. These dual spires were completed in 1998 and stand at 1,483 feet tall. Both were inspired by Islamic geometry, and were built as a symbol of the country’s growth and emergence as a global player.
The two 88-story towers are powerful individual features of the city’s skyline, but are also dependent upon one another. A sky bridge connects the two buildings on the 41st and 42nd floors, allowing individuals to share facilities within the towers with ease.
Visitors can buy tickets to explore the sky bridge, a gift shop and an observation deck offering spectacular views of Kuala Lumpur.
11. Changsha IFS Tower T1, China
The most recent addition to the world’s tallest buildings ranking is the Changsha IFS Tower T1, which was completed in 2018.
The 1,483-foot-tall building is based on a hyper-connected retail development in Hong Kong called Harbour City. The building complex includes a block-size megamall at its base that includes amenities like shopping, entertainment, dining and overnight accommodations. It also includes a second tower that is slightly smaller than the 94-story T1.
Future plans for the complex include an underground connection to metro lines, as well as access to one of the country’s busiest pedestrian streets.
10. International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong
Not only is Hong Kong’s International Commerce Centre the tallest building in the city, but it is home to some of the most renowned financial institutions in the world.
Completed in 2010 as part of the Union Square complex, the building is also known for its high energy efficiency. Over the years, the 1,588-foot-tall building has been adapted to be increasingly efficient through initiatives like an innovative air conditioning system, low emission exterior and revamped waste management system.
The 108-story building includes a number of hotels, an observation deck called Sky100, and the world’s highest swimming pool and bar, located on the top floor.
9. Shanghai World Financial Center, China
Completed in 2008, the Shanghai World Financial Center is an enduring symbol of China’s commerce and culture. At 1,614 feet tall, the building’s unique arched design with a square cutout are said to represent the ancient Chinese symbols of heaven and earth. But the portal has a function outside of its symbolic form: The 164-foot-wide opening in the upper section of the building helps to relieve some of the immense wind pressure on the tower.
Along with retail space, offices, a conference center and dining, the 101-story tower includes the five-star Park Hyatt Hotel, one of the highest hotels in the world.
8. TAIPEI 101, Taiwan
Much of the design of the Taiwanese TAIPEI 101 is steeped in symbolism. The tower was completed in 2004, and showcases an accented modular form reminiscent of a traditional Chinese pagoda. But the stylistic choice also has a practical application. The 1,667-foot-tall building was built to withstand typhoons and earthquakes, and the building’s distinct layers allow it to be both flexible and structurally resistant.
The building’s number, 101, reflects the number of floors in the building, and represents the first day of the year. This has meant that the skyscraper is a prominent centerpiece of Taipei’s New Year’s celebrations. Every year on December 31, each of the tower’s stacked modules shoots out fireworks and lights up in sequential order, counting down from the last eight seconds before the New Year.
Outside of the New Year’s celebrations, TAIPEI 101 houses hundreds of retail shops, restaurants and clubs.
7. Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre, China
Completed in 2016, the Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre is a mixed-use, 1,739-foot-tall building constructed into four angled walled sections that allow for distinct areas of use. With 111 floors, this dramatic skyscraper includes office, residential and hotel space, all featuring sweeping balconies and dramatic skylights.
Special attention was also paid to the building’s environmental impact. Designers made an aesthetic choice to outline the building’s windows with a subtle terra cotta lining. Not only does the material have historical significance for both Eastern and Western building, but terra cotta is self-cleaning and resistant to corrosion, meaning it will require less energy to maintain over time.
6. One World Trade Center, New York City, United States
Built on the original site of the World Trade Center towers, New York City’s One World Trade Center draws inspiration from the city’s icons, like the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building. Completed in 2014 after extensive rounds of design submissions, One World Trade Center is the tallest building in North America at 1,776 feet tall with 94 floors. The single building replaces nearly one quarter of the total office space lost during the September 11 attacks, and is located adjacent from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
The building’s exterior is composed of eight elongated isosceles triangles, which converge at the center of the building to form a perfect octagon. The optical illusion created by the converging lines refracts light reminiscent of the inside of a kaleidoscope.
5. Lotte World Tower, Seoul, South Korea
Standing at 1,819 feet tall, Seoul’s Lotte World Tower design was inspired by Korean ceramics, porcelain and calligraphy. Completed in 2017, this building holds the title of the tallest in South Korea. The seam that runs the length of the tower is said to gesture to the old part of the city, paying homage to the changing landscape of the country’s capital city.
The 123-story structure includes retail space, offices and a luxury hotel. Lotte also includes officetels — pre-furnished studio-style apartments for people working in the building, common in South Korean real estate. The top 10 stories of the building feature space accessible to the public, including an observation deck and rooftop cafe.
4. Ping An Finance Center, Shenzhen, China
Located in the Futian District of Shenzhen, the Ping An Finance Center is a centerpiece of the urban landscape. Completed in 2017, the building is 1,965 feet tall with 115 floors, and has been described as the pinnacle of modern Chinese skyscrapers — tall, dense and extremely connected.
The building seamlessly integrates with the surrounding landscape, as well as the city’s high-speed rail line. To combat the salty coastal climate of the city, Ping touts the world’s largest stainless steel facade, which includes nearly 1,700 tons of steel.
The tower has also become a symbol of the area’s immense urban growth. In the 35 years since Shenzhen became China’s first Special Economic Zone, the population has jumped from 300,000 people to nearly 10 million.
3. Makkah Royal Clock Tower, Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Built in the heart of the holy Islamic city of Mecca, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower was created as part of the King Abdulaziz Endowment Project to serve as comfortable accommodations for Muslim travelers making the pilgrimage to the city during the annual Hajj. Completed in 2012 and standing at 1,972 feet tall, the top of the tower features four large clock faces that themselves hold the world record for both size and height.
The tower is conveniently located adjacent to the Grand Mosque, where an estimated two million people gather to worship throughout the course of the Hajj. Because so many of the tower’s guests will exit the building five times each day for prayer, Makkah's elevator system was specifically designed to be efficient for large groups of people. Using its advanced technology, up to 75,000 people can exit the Makkah Royal Clock Tower complex without congestion.
2. Shanghai Tower, China
Just because a building is tall doesn’t mean that it can’t be environmentally friendly, too. Completed in 2015, the Shanghai Tower has been called the “greenest super high-rise building on Earth” thanks to its reuse of rainwater runoff and glass facade that reduces wind resistance and transforms it into clean energy. Standing at 2,073 feet with 128 floors, it also holds the title of the tallest building in skyscraper-friendly China.
The Shanghai Tower is home to the world’s fastest elevators, with a top speed of 67.25 feet per second. The building includes a variety of spaces — including restaurants, shops, offices and hotels — and is divided into nine distinct zones that incorporate a sky lobby and garden atrium hearkening back to the city’s historic open courtyards.
1. Burj Khalifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai has held the title of the world’s tallest building since it was completed in 2010. With 163 floors, this impressive skyscraper stands at 2,717 feet tall.
The building’s designers were no strangers to tall towers: Skidmore, Owings and Merrill is the same firm that designed Chicago’s Willis Tower and One World Trade Center in New York City. This building in the United Arab Emirates includes offices, residential units and the 304-room Armani Hotel. It was also famously featured during a heart-stopping scene in “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.”
As of 2014, the Burj Khalifa is additionally home to the highest observation deck in the world. If you want to experience views from the staggering skyscraper firsthand, you can purchase tickets to the 148th and 125th floors. The experience allows visitors to take a virtual birds’-eye-view tour of Dubai through interactive viewfinders.