Amazing Tall Towers - The Rivals of Skyscrapers

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CN Tower, Toronto, Canada

Skyline of Toronto, Canada, showing the CN Tower rising above all other architecture
Tall Towers: CN Tower, Toronto Canada Measuring 553.33 meters (1,816 feet, 5 inches), the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada is among the tallest structures in the world. Photo by Michael Interisano/Design Pics/Perspectives Collection/Getty Images

Pictures of Tall Towers, Observation Towers, and Radio and TV Towers

The towers in this photo gallery are truly amazing. Some are among the world's tallest man-made structures. Others are remarkable for the ingenuity of their engineering.

Unlike skyscrapers, none of these structures provide habitable living quarters or offices. Instead, these amazing tall towers function as radio and television communication platforms, observation decks, and tourist attractions.

The American Society of Civil Engineers calls the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World.

Location: Toronto, Canada
Construction Type: Concrete
Architect: John Andrews Architects with WZMH Architects
Year: 1976
Height: 553.3 meters / 1,815 feet

About the CN Tower

The CN Tower was built by the Canadian National Railway to provide a major TV and radio communication system for Toronto, Canada. Ownership of the tower was transferred to Canada Lands Company, a real estate development corporation, in 1995. The name CN Tower now stands for Canada's National Tower instead of Canadian National Tower. However, most people simply use the abbreviation, CN Tower.

At the center of the CN Tower is a hollow, hexagon-shaped concrete pillar with electrical lines, plumbing, stairwells, and six elevators. At the peak is a 102-metre (334.6 ft) tall antenna that broadcasts TV and radio signals.

The main support pillar for the CN Tower was constructed by hydraulically raising a large metal platform from the base. A helicopter erected the antenna in 36 sections.

For many years, the CN Tower ranked as the world's tallest tower. However, the Tokyo Sky Tree in Japan is now taller, measuring 634 meters (2,080 feet). Also outranking the CN Tower is the Canton Tower in China, measuring 600 meters (1,968.5 ft).

CN Tower Official Site

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Ostankino Tower in Moscow, Russia

Ostankino TV Tower in Moscow, Russia
Tall Towers: Ostankino Tower in Moscow, Russia Ostankino TV Tower in Moscow, Russia. Photo by Boris SV / Moment / Getty Images

Ostankino Tower in Moscow was the world's first free-standing structure to rise higher than 500 meters.

Location: Moscow, Russia
Construction Type: Concrete
Architect: Nikolai Nikitin
Year: 1963-1967
Height: 540 meters / 1,772 feet

About the Ostankino Tower

Located in the Ostankino district of Moscow, Ostankino Tower was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution in Russia. Ostankino Tower is a radio and television broadcast tower and also a major tourist attraction with an observation deck.

In August 27, 2000, Ostankino Tower was badly damaged in a fire that killed three people. Ostankino Tower was later renovated.

Architecture in Russia >>

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Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai, China

Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai, China
Tall Towers: Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai, China Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai, China. Photo by li jingwang / E+ / Getty Images

Chinese legends inspired the pearl-like shapes of the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.

Location: Shanghai, China
Construction Type: Concrete
Architect: Jiang Huan Cheng of the Shanghai Modern Architectural Design Co. Ltd.
Year: 1995
Height: 467.9 meters / 1,535 feet

About the Oriental Pearl TV Tower

The architects of Oriental Pearl Tower incorporated Chinese legends into its design. The Oriental Pearl Tower is composed of eleven spheres supported by three columns. From the distance, the Tower resembles pearls set between the dragon-like forms of the Yangpu Bridge and the Nanpu Bridge.

Architecture in China >>

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The Space Needle

Space Needle in Seattle, Washington
The Seattle Center in Seattle, Washington Space Needle in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Westend61 / Getty Images

The futuristic Space Needle, or Seattle Center, in Seattle, Washington was designed for the 1962 World's Fair.

Location: Seattle, Washington
Architect: John Graham & Company
Year: 1961
Height: 184 meters / 605 feet

About the Seattle Space Needle

The 605 foot (184 meter) Space Needle was envisioned by Edward E. Carlson, who was president of Western International Hotels. Carlson's sketch became an icon for the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle, and after many adaptations, architect John Graham and his team of architects transformed the balloon-topped tower that Carlson sketched into the saucer-topped tower we see today.

Massive steel beams form the slender legs and upper body of the Seattle Space Needle. The Space Needle is designed to withstand a wind velocity of 200 miles per hour, but storms occasionally force the facility to close. Several earth tremors have caused the Needle to sway. However, the original designers doubled the 1962 building code requirements, enabling the Space Needle to withstand even greater jolts.

The Space Needle was completed in December 1961, and officially opened four months later on the first day of the World's Fair, April 21, 1962. The Space Needle has been extensively renovated. Nearly every aspect of the 1962 World's Fair centerpiece has been or is being updated, including the entry level, restaurant, and Observation Deck, all the way down to the grounds surrounding the attraction.

Legacy Light

The Space Needle's Legacy Light was first illuminated on New Year's Eve 1999/2000, and has been shown on major national holidays. A beam of light that shines skyward from the top of the Space Needle, the Legacy Light honors national holidays and commemorates special occasions in Seattle. The Legacy Light is based on the original concept of a beam of light shining atop the Space Needle, as depicted in the official 1962 World's Fair poster.

Seattle Space Needle Official Site >>

Space Needle Fun Facts >>

Gift Idea: LEGO Seattle Space Needle Construction Model (compare prices)

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Montjuic Communications Tower in Barcelona, Spain

Montjuic Communications Tower by Santiago Calatrava
Tall Towers: The 1992 Olympic Tower Montjuic Communications Tower by Santiago Calatrava. Photo by Allan Baxter / Photodisc / Getty Images

The Montjuic Communications Tower by Santiago Calatrava was built to transmit television coverage of the 1992 Summer Olympics Games in Barcelona, Spain.

Remember the Summer Olympics when the archer shot a flaming arrow up into the air to light the Olympic cauldron? That was way back in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain. That wonderous image is imbedded into our memories because the picture was transmitted via this telecommunications tower built atop the Montjuic hillside.

About Montjuic Communications Tower:

Location: Montjuïc District of Barcelona, Spain
Architect: Spanish-born Santiago Calatrava
Year: 1991
Height: 136 meters / 446 feet
Other names: Olympic Tower; Torre Calatrava; Torre Telefónica; Montjuic Tower

The Montjuic Tower has the usual dish antennas, but they are enclosed in a graceful arc. Thus, architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava transformed a utilitarian communications tower into a work of sculpture.

If it weren't for Calatrava's tower, would we have seen the first "Dream Team" win a Gold Medal for the U.S. in basketball? Unlike fantasy basketball, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan were really there. We saw them play.

Learn More:

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Tokyo Sky Tree, Japan

Sky Tree Tower, towering over Tokyo, Japan
The Hightest Tower in the World Sky Tree Tower in Tokyo, Japan. Photo Copyright by tk21hx / Moment /Getty Images

On a clear day, the Sky Tree® original color "Skytree White" contrasts with Tokyo's bright, blue sky.

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Architect: Nikken Sekkei Group
Owner: Tobu Railway Co., LTD and Tobu Tower Skytree Co., Ltd.
Builder: Obayashi Corporation
Height: 634 meters (2,080 feet)
Site area: 36,900 square meters (footprint and base shopping malls)
Structure: Steel, concrete, and steel-reinforced concrete (SRC)
Built: 2008 - 2011
Tallest Tower in the World: Guinness World Records Company, November 17, 2011
Grand Opening: May 22, 2012
Use: Mixed use (digital broadcasting; commercial / restaurants; tourism)

About the Sky Tree Tower:

Because the site is bordered by (1) rivers, (2) rails, and (3) roads, the designers started with an equilateral triangular base. Vertical lines visually rise like a tripod on this base. The triangle form gradually becomes a circle at the top.

"The change from the triangle to the circle also entailed warp and camber which are traditional shapes in Japanese culture."— Nikken Sekkei Design Concept

Structurally, the tower is built like a giant tree with deep roots into the ground. At the base, steel tubes (2.3 meters in diameter and 10 centimeters thick) form the base of the structure's trunk, a series of trusses and branch joints. The reinforced concrete center column is structurally separate from the surrounding steel framing, an earthquake-resistant design similar to muli-storied pagoda temples.

Why 634 Meters?

"The sound of the number 634 when read in old Japanese numbers is mu-sa-shi, which reminds Japanese people of Musashi Province of the past, that used to cover a large area, including Tokyo, Saitama and part of Kanagawa Prefecture."— Sky Tree Official Website

Two areas are open to the public (fee required):

  • 350 meters (1,148 feet): Tembo Deck (First Observation Deck, Restaurants, Shops)
  • 450 meters (1,476 feet): Glass enclosed Tembo Galleria (Skywalk and Observation Deck)

SOURCES: Nikken Sekkei Ltd. and, the official website [accessed May 23, 2012]