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The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The world’s tallest artificial structure is the 829.8-metre-tall (2,722 ft) Burj Khalifa in Dubai (of the United Arab Emirates). The building gained the official title of “Tallest Building in the World” and the tallest self supported structure at its opening on January 9, 2010. The second-tallest self-supporting structure and the tallest tower is the Tokyo Skytree. The tallest guyed structure is the KVLY-TV mast.
Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo, Japan in 2014.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, an organization that certifies buildings as the “World’s Tallest”, recognizes a building only if at least 50% of its height is made up of floor plates containing habitable floor area. Structures that do not meet this criterion, such as the CN Tower, are defined as “towers”.
There are dozens of radio and television broadcasting towers which measure over 600 metres (about 2,000 ft) in height, and only the tallest are recorded in publicly available information sources.
1 Debate over definitions
2 Tallest structures
2.1 Tallest structure by category
2.2 Tallest destroyed structures by category, not surpassed by existing structures
2.3 Tallest building by function
3 Tallest buildings
3.1 History of record holders in each CTBUH category
4 Tallest freestanding structures on land
4.2 World’s highest observation deck
4.3 Timeline of guyed structures on land
5 Tallest towers
5.1 History of tallest tower
6 Tallest structures, freestanding structures, and buildings
8 External links
Debate Over Definitions
The assessment of the height of artificial structures has been controversial. Various standards have been used by different organizations which has meant that the title of world’s tallest structure or building has changed depending on which standards have been accepted. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has changed its definitions over time. Some of the controversy regarding the definitions and assessment of tall structures and buildings has included the following:
- the definition of a structure, a building and a tower
- whether a structure, building or tower under construction should be included in any assessment
- whether a structure, building or tower has to be officially opened before it is assessed
- whether structures built in and rising above water should have their below-water height included in any assessment.
- whether a structure, building or tower that is guyed is assessed in the same category as self-supporting structures.
Within an accepted definition of a building further controversy has included the following factors:
- whether only habitable height of the building is considered
- whether communication towers with observation galleries should be considered “habitable” in this sense
- whether rooftop antennas, viewing platforms or any other architecture that does not form a habitable floor should be included in the assessment
- whether a floor built at a high level of a telecommunications or viewing tower should change the tower’s definition to that of a “building”
Warsaw radio mast, the height record holder from 1974 to 1991.
The CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was the world’s tallest freestanding structure from 1975 to 2007.
This category does not require the structure to be “officially” open but does require it to be ‘topped out’.
The tallest artificial structure is Burj Khalifa, a skyscraper in Dubai that reached 828.1 m (2,717 ft) in height on January 17, 2009. By April 7, 2008 it had been built higher than the KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota, USA. That September it officially surpassed Poland’s 646.38 m (2,120.7 ft) Warsaw radio mast, which stood from 1974 to 1991, to become the tallest structure ever built. Guyed lattice towers such as these masts had held the world height record since 1954.
The Petronius Platform stands 610 m (2,000 ft) off the sea floor leading some, including Guinness World Records 2007, to claim it as the tallest freestanding structure in the world. However, it is debated whether underwater height should be counted, in the same manner as height below ground is ignored on buildings. The Troll A platform is 472 m (1,549 ft), without any part of that height being supported by wires. The tension-leg type of oil platform has even greater below-water heights with several examples more than 1,000 m (3,300 ft) deep. However, these platforms are not considered constant structures as the vast majority of their height is made up of the length of the tendons attaching the floating platforms to the sea floor. Despite this, Guinness World Records 2009 listed the Ursa tension leg platform as the tallest structure in the world with a total height of 1,306 m (4,285 ft). The Magnolia Tension-leg Platform in the Gulf of Mexico is even taller with a total height of 1,432 m (4,698 ft).
Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan, set records in three of the four skyscraper categories at the time it opened in 2004; at the time the Burj Khalifa opened in 2010 it remained the world’s tallest inhabited building 509.2 m (1,671 ft) as measured to its architectural height (spire). The height of its roof 449.2 m (1,474 ft) and highest occupied floor 439.2 m (1,441 ft) had been surpassed by the Shanghai World Financial Center with corresponding heights of 487 and 474 m (1,598 and 1,555 ft). Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) was the highest in the final category: the greatest height to top of antenna of any building in the world at 527.3 m (1,730 ft).
Burj Khalifa broke the height record in all four categories for completed buildings.
Tallest Structure by Category
Due to the disagreements over how to measure height and classify structures, engineers have created various definitions for categories of buildings and other structures. One measure includes the absolute height of a building, another includes only spires and other permanent architectural features, but not antennas. The tradition of including the spire on top of a building and not including the antenna dates back to the rivalry between the Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street. A modern-day example is that the antenna on top of Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) is not considered part of its architectural height, while the spires on top of the Petronas Twin Towers are counted.
Note: The following table is a list of the tallest completed structure in each of the 53 categories below. There can only be one structure in each category, unless the title for the tallest is a draw.
Tallest destroyed structures by category, not surpassed by existing structures
There are some destroyed architectural structures which were taller than the tallest existing structure of their type. There are also destroyed structures omitted from this list that had been surpassed in height prior to being destroyed.
Tallest building by function
* Mixed-Use is defined as having three or more real estate uses (such as retail, office, hotel, etc.) that are physically and functionally integrated in a single property and are mutually supporting.
Prior to 1998, the tallest building status was determined by the height of the building to the top of its architectural elements including spires, but not including “temporary” structures (such as antennas or flagpoles), which could be added or changed relatively easily without requiring major changes to the building’s design. Other criteria for height measurement were not used. For this reason, the originally 1,451-foot (442-meter) to rooftop or 1518 feet with original antennas Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) was generally accepted as being the tallest building continuously after its completion in 1973, and being taller than both World Trade Center towers, in spite of the fact the 1 World Trade Center Tower (North Tower) possessed a higher pinnacle absolute height after it added its 360-foot (110 m) radio antenna (total height of 1730 feet or 527.3 meters) in 1978. The 1 World Trade Center building maintained a higher absolute height to antenna top until the Sears Tower enlarged its own radio antenna in 2000 to a total height of 1730 feet. However, the Willis Tower was always considered the taller building because it still possessed a greater height to its architectural top (1451 feet vs. 1362 feet), and thus its status as the world’s tallest was generally not contested.
Other historic cases in which a building with a taller absolute pinnacle height was not considered the tallest building include, in 1905 when the former New York Times building or The Times Square Building (at 229 West 43rd Street in New York) was completed at 111 m (364 ft) to the roof with 128 m (420 ft) including a flagpole. That building was never considered to be taller than the 119-metre-high (390 ft) then-current record-holder Park Row Building of New York because a flagpole is not an integral architectural part of a building.
Prior to 1998 the tallest building status had been contested on occasion, but the disputes did not result in a change of the criteria used to determine the world’s tallest building. An example was the rivalry between the Trump Building (then known as the Bank of Manhattan Building) and the Chrysler Building. The Bank of Manhattan Building employed only a short spire and was 927 ft (283 m) tall and had a much higher top occupied floor (the second category in the 1996 criteria for tallest building). In contrast, the Chrysler Building employed a very large 125-foot (38 m) spire secretly assembled inside the building to claim the title of world’s tallest building with a total height of 1,048 feet (319 m), despite having a lower top occupied floor and a shorter height when both buildings’ spires are not counted in their heights. Upset by Chrysler’s victory, Shreve & Lamb, the consulting architects of Bank of Manhattan building, wrote a newspaper article claiming that their building was actually the tallest, since it contained the world’s highest usable floor. They pointed out that the observation deck in the Bank of Manhattan Building was nearly 100 feet (30 m) above the top floor in the Chrysler Building, whose surpassing spire was strictly ornamental and essentially inaccessible. However, the Chrysler Building was generally accepted as the tallest building in the world despite their protests.
The Petronas Towers remain the tallest twin towers in the world.
However, none of the previous discrepancies or disputes in criteria to measure height (spires vs antennas, absolute pinnacle height vs. architectural height, height of highest occupied floor, etc.) resulted in the controversy that occurred upon the completion of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998. The Petronas Towers possessed a higher architectural height (spires, but not antennas), but a lower absolute pinnacle height and lower top occupied floor than the previous record-holder Willis Tower in Chicago, United States. Counting buildings as structures with floors throughout, and with antenna masts excluded, Willis Tower was still considered the tallest at that time. When the Petronas Twin Towers were built, controversy arose because their spires extended nine metres higher than the roof of Willis Tower. Excluding their spires, the Petronas Towers are not taller than Willis Tower. At their convention in Chicago, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) found the Willis Tower to be the third-tallest building, and the Petronas Towers to be the world’s tallest buildings. This decision caused a considerable amount of controversy in the news media because this was the first time a country outside the United States had held the world’s tallest building record. Therefore, the CTBUH revised their criteria and defined four categories in which the world’s tallest building can be measured, by retaining the old criterion of height to architectural top and added three new categories
- Height to Architectural Top (including spires and pinnacles, but not antennas, masts or flagpoles). This measurement is the most widely used and is used to define the rankings of the 100 Tallest Buildings in the World.
- Highest Occupied Floor
- Height to Top of Roof (omitted from criteria from November 2009 onwards)
- Height to Tip
The height-to-roof criterion was discontinued because relatively few modern tall buildings possess flat rooftops, making this criterion difficult to determine and measure. The CTBUH has further clarified their definitions of building height, including specific criteria concerning subbasements and ground level entrances (height measured from lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance rather than from a previously undefined “main entrance”), building completion (must be topped out both structurally and architecturally, fully clad, and able to be occupied), condition of the highest occupied floor (must be continuously used by people living or working and be conditioned, thus including observation decks, but not mechanical floors) and other aspects of tall buildings.
The height is measured from the level of the lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance. At the time, the Willis Tower held first place in the second and third categories, the Petronas Towers held the first category, and the 1 World Trade Center building held the fourth with its antenna height to top of pinnacle. In 2000, however, a new antenna mast was placed on the Willis Tower, giving it hold of the fourth category. On April 20, 2004, Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan, was completed. Its completion gave it the world record for the first three categories. On July 21, 2007 it was announced that Burj Khalifa had surpassed Taipei 101 in height, reaching 512 m (1,680 ft).
Since being completed in early 2010, Burj Khalifa leads in all categories (the first building to do so). With a spire height of 829.8 m (2,722 ft), Burj Khalifa surpassed Taipei 101 as the tallest building to architectural detail and the Willis Tower as the tallest building to tip. It also leads in the category of highest occupied floor.
Before Burj Khalifa was completed, Willis Tower led in the fourth category with 527 m (1,729 ft), previously held by the World Trade Center until the extension of the Chicago tower’s western broadcast antenna in 2000, over a year prior to the World Trade Center’s destruction in 2001. Its antenna mast included, One World Trade Center measured 527.3 m (1,730 ft). The World Trade Center became the world’s tallest building to be destroyed or demolished; indeed, its site entered the record books twice on September 11, 2001, in that category, replacing the Singer Building, which once stood a block from the World Trade Center site. A different superlative for skyscrapers is their number of floors. The World Trade Center set that at 110, and this was not surpassed for nearly four decades until the Burj Khalifa, which opened in 2010.
Structures such as the CN Tower, the Ostankino Tower and the Oriental Pearl Tower are excluded from these categories because they are not “habitable buildings”, which are defined as frame structures made with floors and walls throughout.
History of record holders in each CTBUH category
Tallest Freestanding Structures on Land
Freestanding structures must not be supported by guy wires, the sea or other types of support. It therefore does not include guyed masts, partially guyed towers and drilling platforms but does include towers, skyscrapers (pinnacle height) and chimneys. (See also history of tallest skyscrapers.)
The world’s tallest freestanding structure on land is defined as the tallest self-supporting artificial structure that stands above ground. This definition is different from that of world’s tallest building or world’s tallest structure based on the percentage of the structure that is occupied and whether or not it is self-supporting or supported by exterior cables. Likewise, this definition does not count structures that are built underground or on the seabed, such as the Petronius Platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Visit world’s tallest structure by category for a list of various other definitions.
The tallest freestanding structure on land is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The building surpassed the height of the previous record holder, the 553.3 m (1,815 ft) CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario, on September 12, 2007. It was completed in 2010, with final height of 829.8 m (2,722 ft).
The following is a list of structures that have held the title as the tallest freestanding structure on land.
Notable mentions include the Pharos (lighthouse) of Alexandria, built in the third century BC and estimated between 115–135 m (377–443 ft). It was the world’s tallest non-pyramidal structure for many centuries. Another notable mention includes the Jetavanaramaya stupa in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, which was built in the third century, and was similarly tall at 122 m (400 ft). These were both the world’s tallest or second-tallest non-pyramidal structure for over a thousand years.
Diagram of the Principal High Buildings of the Old World, 1884.
The tallest secular building between the collapse of the Pharos and the erection of the Washington Monument may have been the Torre del Mangia in Siena, which is 102 m (335 ft) tall, and was constructed in the first half of the fourteenth century, and the 97-metre-tall (318 ft) Torre degli Asinelli in Bologna, also Italy, built between 1109 and 1119.
World’s Highest Observation Deck
Timeline of development of world’s highest observation deck since inauguration of Eiffel Tower.
Higher observation decks have existed on mountain tops or cliffs, rather than on tall structures. The Grand Canyon Skywalk, constructed in 2007, protrudes 21 m (70 ft) over the west rim of the Grand Canyon and is approximately 1,100 m (3,600 ft) above the Colorado River, making it the highest of these types of structures.
Timeline of Guyed Structures on Land
As most of the tallest structures are guyed masts, here is a timeline of world’s tallest guyed masts, since the beginning of radio technology.
As many large guyed masts were destroyed at the end of World War II, the dates for the years between 1945 and 1950 may be incorrect. If Wusung Radio Tower survived World War II, it was the tallest guyed structure shortly after World War II.
Towers include observation towers, monuments and other structures not generally considered to be “habitable buildings”, they are meant for “regular access by humans, but not for living in or office work, and are self-supporting or freestanding, which means no guy-wires for support”, meaning it excludes from this list of continuously habitable buildings and skyscrapers as well as radio and TV masts.
Bridge towers or pylons, chimneys, transmission towers, and most large statues allow human access for maintenance, but not as part of their normal operation, and are therefore not considered to be towers.
The Tokyo Skytree, completed in February 2012, is 634 m (2,080 ft), making it the tallest tower, and second-tallest freestanding structure in the world.
History of Tallest Tower
The following is a list of structures that have historically held the title as the tallest towers in the world.
Tallest Structures, Freestanding Structures, and Buildings
Burj Khalifa and other tallest structures
The list categories are:
- The structures (supported) list uses pinnacle height and includes architectural structures of any type that might use some external support constructions like cables and are fully built in air. Only the three tallest are listed, as more than fifty US TV masts have stated heights of 600–610 metres (1,970–2,000 ft).
- The structures (media supported) list uses pinnacle height and includes architectural structures of any type that are not totally built in the air but are using support from other, denser media like salt water. All structures greater than 500 metres (1,640 ft) are listed.
- The freestanding structures list uses pinnacle height and includes structures over 500 metres (1,640 ft) that do not use guy-wires or other external supports. This means truly free standing on its own or, in similar sense, non-supported structures.
The building list uses architectural height (excluding antennas) and includes only buildings, defined as consisting of habitable floors. Both of these follow CTBUH guidelines. All supertall buildings (450 m and higher) are listed.
- Eight buildings appear on the freestanding structures category list with heights different from another category. This is due to the different measurement specifications of those lists.
- Only current heights and, where reasonable, target heights are listed. Historical heights of structures that no longer exist, for example, for having collapsed, are excluded.