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16 Visually Impressive Towers From Around The World

29 November 2010 No Comment

The old game of ‘mine is bigger than yours’ is played out throughout our lives, whether it be with siblings, neighbors, or work colleagues. However, what happens when a whole nations resources are ploughed into this cat and mouse game? Towers and skyscrapers are the instrument of choice when sovereign states want to show of their financial and engineering prowess.

As a result some of the worlds tallest and most visually stunning structures are built. This article outlines some of the most impressive of these ‘trophy’ towers from around the world.

1. Burj Khalifa


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The tallest tower in the world at the moment is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Not surprisingly it dominates the Dubai skyline and can be seen from 60 miles away. Though it dwarfs some of the other towers it’s not just the outside that counts. Inside it is unbelievably plush with no expense spared. It holds lots of other records, such as highest occupied area in the world, longest elevator; well it would need to be as imagine all the stairs up to 828 meters in height. It has a restaurant, state of the art gym, corporate suites and water features. Designed partly as a tourist attraction it is a statement of wealth and power for the United Arab Emirates.

2. CN Tower Canada

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Completed in 1976, the CN Tower in Toronto was the world’s tallest free standing structure for 31 years, losing its title to the Burj Khalifa. Originally built by the railway company Canadian National it is now officially called Canada’s National Tower. The height of the roof is 457 meters with the antenna on the top adding another 94 meters. It is used as an observational and telecommunications tower, and it is also a major tourist attraction in downtown Toronto. It has two observation areas, the main deck and the Skypod, which is just below the antenna. The antenna itself was placed on the roof by helicopter, taking only 3 and a half weeks to put into place.

3. Willis Tower (Sears Tower)


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The tallest tower in the USA is the Willis Tower, currently only 5th on the list of freestanding structures. For nearly 25 years, when it was known as the Sears Tower, it was the tallest building. Situated in Chicago the design consists of 9 tubes, each of which is actually a separate building, the number of tubes diminishing from 9 to 7 to 5 then down to the final two at 108 floors. This diminishing effect gives this tower its distinctive look. The total height was restricted because of the proximity of O’Hare airport. The name change came about when Sears lost the naming rights in 2003 and the Willis group leased part of the building, obtaining the name change.

4. One Canada Square (Canary Wharf Tower)

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Britain’s tallest towers are all in London. The tallest is officially called One Canada Square, or as most people know it, Canary Wharf Tower. At a mere 235 meters in height, it is dwarfed by our other towers but in London it remains an imposing edifice. It was made from steel to reflect Britain’s industrial heritage and was topped out in 1990. Adding height to the building is a pyramid roof which houses an aircraft warning beacon and also lighting which illuminates the building and announces its stature for over 20 miles. The top of the building can sway 13 inches in a high wind, so the structure contains a pendulum to counterbalance this and prevent sea sickness.

5. Canton Tower


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Image source courtesy of GAGOC

Built for the 2010 Asian games in China, the Canton Tower is the second highest tower in the world. Though not quite completed, it is officially open, though the rooftop observational carousel is yet to be constructed. It is 454 meters high up to the top of the actual building, with the antenna on the top adding an extra 160 meters. This tower has a distinctive shape, meant to be reminiscent of the female form, and so has earned its local nickname of Xiao Man’s waist after a locally well known geisha. The illuminations are part of the design, intended to make the structure glow rather than be harshly lit.

6. Tokyo Sky Tree

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Tokyo sky tree night

Image source from Tobu Railway Co.,Ltd

Not to be outdone, Japan has its own tall tower under construction. Due to be completed in 2012, it will be 497 meters in height to the top of the roof, and 634 meters at the pinnacle. When finished, it will be the second tallest structure in the world. It is meant as a broadcasting and radio tower, but as it contains a restaurant and observation tower, it merits its classification in Towers of Power. Its construction is commercially driven as it is at the heart of a new commercial development. As Tokyo is prone to earthquakes and tremors, and the Tree has a core of reinforced concrete to protect it.

7. Sky Tower, New Zealand


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Image source from Tourism Auckland

Completed in 1997, the Sky Tower in Auckland is 328 meters to the top of its antenna. It is an observation and telecommunications tower but it has built on its role as a tourist attraction. It has a revolving restaurant 190 meters from the ground as well as another restaurant and a cafe. Another tourist attraction is the SkyJump, a 192 meters guide cable controlled leap from the observation deck. Made of structural steel, precast and reinforced concrete, the Sky tower is the tallest structure in the Southern hemisphere. It lights up the Auckland skyline at night, and has LED lights to conserve energy.

8. Ostankino Tower

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For nine years, the Ostankino Tower in Moscow was the World’s tallest building, taking the title from the Empire State Building. It was built to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Oktober Revolution and is 540 meters high to the top of its antenna .It is still the tallest tower in Europe. It began a kind of building war in other Soviet cities as they wanted towers of their own, but none managed to surpass this simple structure of pre stressed concrete. At one point, there was a plan to extend the height by adding an extra antenna but lack of money prevented this, and other tall buildings have so far surpassed it that this would no longer make it a contender for the tallest building.

9. Kiev TV Tower

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The tallest free standing lattice tower in the world is the Kiev TV tower. It was going to be in Moscow, but the Ostankino Tower was built instead, and the tower re-located to Kiev. It was originally meant to be taller, but it was not allowed to outstrip the Moscow tower so it was made shorter. It is constructed of steel pipe on a 4 legged base which is 100 metres in height and all the joints are welded. Completed in 1973, it is 375 meters high and its sole use is telecommunications; it is not open to the public. It weighs 2,700 tons.

10. Eiffel Tower


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No list of iconic towers would be complete without a mention of the Eiffel Tower. At 234 meters it was the tallest building in the world for 41 years. It dominates the Paris skyline and no film set in that city is complete without a glimpse of the tower in the background. Made from steel, it was built within two years, from 1887 to 1889, and is so famous it has more visitors than any other national monument in the world. Unlike many other of our towers, it is not meant for people to live in or work in, though there is a restaurant. It is a monument.

11. Empire State Building


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The United States held all the records for many years with the iconic Empire State Building, tallest from 1931 to 1967 when it was overtaken by the Russian Ostankino Tower in Moscow. It has been nominated as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. Located on 5th avenue, and built in 1931, it still retains its iconic status and is well represented in Hollywood films. Including the pinnacle on the top, a common device to add to the official height of buildings, it stands 443 meters high.

12. Chrysler Building


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The Chrysler Building lost its title as the world’s tallest, which it held for a mere 11 months, when the Empire State Building was constructed. It still holds the record for tallest steel supported brick building. It was built for the Chrysler car company, but the founder, Walter Chrysler, paid for it himself to keep it in the family. Based on Art Deco design, it has a singular terraced crown which used to have an observation terrace, but is now used as offices, the main usage of the Chrysler building. Though no longer owned by the family, the building has kept the name.

13. Blackpool Tower


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It’s not always about the height. Blackpool Tower has never been the tallest, but it is one of the best known. It was inspired by the Eiffel Tower and resembles it in structure, though it is very much the seaside version. It qualifies as a tower of power because it can be seen for thirty miles around. Built from steel, its primary function is as a tourist attraction and it houses various amusements such as a ballroom, pub and circus. Comparatively small in height at a mere 158 meters it still dominates the town both as a landmark and in the numerous souvenirs from Blackpool which bear its picture.

Future Towers of Power

14. Freedom Tower (One World Trade Centre)


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So what does the future hold for our towers of power? The title of the tallest in the USA is under threat from the proposed One World Trade Centre, formerly known as the Freedom Tower. This cutting edge building is both a statement of power and a memorial to 9/11 as it soars once more over the New York skyline. When completed it will be 541 meters in height, which is nearly 300 meters shorter than the Burj Khalifa. The cornerstone was laid in 2004 but building is taking some time due to various financial, security and design wrangles and estimated completion date is not until 2013.


15. London Bridge Tower (The Shard)


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Under construction, and estimated at reaching 310 meters in height, the Shard or London Bridge Tower, will become the tallest building in London, and in the European Union. Situated in Southwark, it has been at the planning stage for some time but work began in 2009 and completion is estimated to be in May 2012, in time for the London Olympics. The whole of the exterior of the building will be covered in glass, hence the name which also reflects the triangular shape. The main function of the Shard will be as offices, but some of it will also be residential.

16. Mile High Building


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The Mile High Tower, or the Kingdom Tower, is planned for Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and is the brainchild of Al-Waleed bin Talal, who is one of the world’s richest men and an astute businessman, making his money from property, though no doubt helped on his way by being a member of the Saudi Royal Family. The Mile High Tower will be the prime tourist attraction and Al-Waleed expects to build a whole town around it, such is the pulling power of the tallest building in the world. The technical challenges in building this height of tower are immense. Much of the building materials will need to be transported by helicopter once the tower reaches a certain height.

These monuments to success have been used as a statement of power for many years. They have reached such a height that the design and safety issues are immense. They take many years to build. Their carbon footprint is vast, both from the buildings themselves and the transport of the materials used to build them. It remains to be seen if these tower wars will continue.

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