Photos of the World's Tallest Skyscrapers

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Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Tower

Photo of tallest building in the world, the skyscraper Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE.
World's Tallest Building: The Burj Khalifa The tallest building in the World, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE. Photo of Burg Kalifa by Davis McCardle/The Image Bank Collection/Getty Images

What do the tallest buildings in the world have in common?

The skyscrapers in this photo gallery are the tallest of the tall. Click each picture for facts and building height statistics. For more skyscraper information, including famous skyscrapers in history, also see:

About the Burj Khalifa:

The United Arab Emirates broke world records in the 21st century for building height with the Burj Khalifa, also known as Burj Dubai or Dubai Tower. The soaring skyscraper is now named after Khalifa Bin Zayed, the president of the United Arab Emirates.

Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Developer: Emaar Properties
Architect: Adrian Smith, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM)
Year: Officially opened January 4, 2010
Height: 828 meters / 2,717 feet (including the spire)
Stories: 162

Dubai has been a showplace for innovative, modern building, and the Burj Khalifa shatters world records. The skyscraper is much taller than Taiwan's Taipei 101, which rises 508 meters (1,667 feet). During a time of economic slowdown, the Dubai Tower has become an icon for wealth and progress in this city on the Persian Gulf. No expense was spared for the building's opening ceremonies.

Skyscraper Safety:

The extreme height of the Burj Khalifa raises safety concerns. Could occupants ever be evacuated quickly in the event of an extreme fire or explosion? How well would a skyscraper this tall withstand a fierce storm or earthquake? Engineers for the Burj Kahalifa claim that the building design incorporates multiple safety features.

  • Hexagonal core with Y-shaped buttresses for structural support
  • Capacity withstand 7.0 magnitude earthquakes
  • Concrete reinforcement around stairways
  • World's fastest elevators
  • 38 fire- and smoke-resistant evacuation lifts

Views About Dubai:

Famous for its bold, new architecture, Dubai's construction boom has stirred heated controversy. Some reports are glowing, and others are highly critical. See:

  • Dubai Pictures
  • Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success by Christopher Davidson, Oxford University Press, 2009
    Buy on Amazon
  • City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism by Jim Krane, Picador, 2010
    Buy on Amazon

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Taipei 101 Tower

Cityscape view of Taipei 101 Tower in Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China
Pictures of the World's Tallest Buildings: Taipei 101 Tower Taipei 101 Tower in Taipei, Taiwan. C.Y. Lee & Partner, Architects. Photo by Collection/Getty Images

With a massive 60-foot spire inspired by Taiwan's native bamboo plant, Taipei 101 Tower in Taipei is one of the tallest buildings in the world.

The design of Taipei 101 borrows heavily from Chinese culture. Both the building's interior and exterior incorporate the Chinese pagoda form and the shape of bamboo flowers. The lucky number eight, which means blooming or success, is represented by the eight clearly delineated exterior sections of the building.

About the Taipei 101 Tower:

Other Names: Taipei Financial Center
Location: Taipei City, Taiwan. Republic of China (ROC)
Completed: 2004
Architect: C.Y. Lee & Partners
Architectural Height: 1,670.60 feet (508 meters)
Floors: 101 (above ground; 5 below ground)
Project and Construction Management: Turner International Industries, Inc.
Façade: Green glass curtain wall
Awards: Best new Skyscraper for Design and Functionality (Emporis, 2004); Best of What’s New Grand Award in Engineering (Popular Science, 2004)

Earthquake Safety:

Designing a building this large presented unique challenges, especially since Taiwan is subject to typhoon winds and ground-shattering earthquakes. To counter unwanted movement within the skyscraper, a tuned mass damper (TMD) is incorporated into the structure. The 660 ton spherical steel mass is suspended between the 87th and 92nd floors, visible from the restaurant and observation decks. The system transfers the energy from the building to the swinging sphere, providing a stabilizing force.

Observation Decks:

Located on floors 89 and 91, the observation decks include the highest restaurant in Taiwan. Two high-speed elevators reach a maximum speed of 1,010 meters/minute (55 feet/second) when traveling to the 89th floor. The elevators are actually air-tight capsules, pressure-controlled for passenger comfort.

Architects' Statement:

THE EARTH AND SKY ...Taipei 101 marches upward by stacking peak on peak. It is similar to the form of the bamboo joint expressing upward progress and prosperous business. Furthermore, the Oriental expression of height and width is achieved with the extension of stacking units and not like in the West, which expands a mass or form. For example, the Chinese pagoda is developed vertically step by step....The application of symbols and totems in China intends to convey the message of fulfillment. Therefore, the talisman symbol and dragon/phoenix motifs are employed at appropriate places on the building.—C.Y. Lee & Partners

A Building is a Message: All things are mutually interactive. They all generate their own messages and such message-like media can be mutually sensed. A message is the medium of interaction. The messages a building space and its body generates are the most important media in our life.Therefore, a building is both the message and the medium.—C.Y. Lee & Partners

Is Taipei Tower the World's Tallest Building?

The towering spire of Taipei 101 Tower made it the world's tallest building for several years. However, it is now outranked by the Burj Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which opened in January 2010. To compare the Taipei Tower with other tall buildings, see our FAQ page, What is the World's Tallest Building?

Sources: The Earth and Sky: Comments on the Form and Language of Taipei 101 on C.Y. Lee & Partners website; Taipei 101, EMPORIS [accessed February 19, 2015]

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Shanghai World Financial Centre

The Shanghai World Financial Centre is a soaring glass skyscraper with a distinctive opening at the top
World's Tallest Buildings: Shanghai World Financial Centre In the center, the Shanghai World Financial Centre is a soaring glass skyscraper with a distinctive opening at the top. Photo by China Photos/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

The Shanghai World Financial Centre, or Center, is a soaring glass skyscraper with a distinctive opening at the top. The original plans called for a 46 meter (151 foot) circular opening that would reduce wind pressure and also suggest Chinese symbolism for the moon. Many people protested that the design resembled the rising sun on the Japanese flag. Eventually the opening was changed from circular to a trapezoid shape designed to reduce wind pressure on the 101 story skyscraper.

About the Shanghai World Financial Centre:

Location: Pudong District, Shanghai, China
Project Architect and Engineer: Minoru Mori, Mori Building Co., Ltd.
Design Architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates P.C. (KPF)
Completed: 2008
Structure: Steel-framed and steel reinforced concrete
Height: 492 meters / 1,600 feet
Stories: 101

The ground floor of Shanghai World Financial Centre is a shopping mall and an elevator lobby with gyrating kaleidoscopes on the ceiling. On the upper floors are offices, conference rooms, hotel rooms, and observation decks.

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International Commerce Centre (ICC)

International Commerce Centre, 2010, in Hong Kong
World's Tallest Buildings: ICC at Union Square, Hong Kong International Commerce Centre, 2010, in Hong Kong. Photo by Premium/UIG/Universal Images Group Collection/Getty Images

The ICC building in West Kowloon is the tallest building in Hong Kong and one of the world's tallest skyscrapers.

Formerly known as Union Square Phase 7, the International Commerce Centre is part of the expansive Union Square project on the Kowloon peninsula across from Hong Kong Island. The ICC building stands at one end of Victoria Harbour, opposite from Two International Finance Centre located across the harbor on Hong Kong Island.

About the International Commerce Centre:

Also Known As: Union Square Phase 7
Location: West Kowloon, Hong Kong
Architect: Wong & Ouyang (HK) Ltd.
Design Architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox Association
Completed: 2010
Height: 484 meters / 1,587.9 feet
Stories: 118

Original plans were for an even taller building with 102 floors rising 574 meters (1,883 feet). However zoning laws prohibited the construction of buildings higher than the surrounding mountains. The design of the ICC building was revised and plans for a pyramidal-shaped top were abandoned.

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The Petronas Towers

Night view of the Petronas (twin) Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Cesar Pelli, Architect
Pictures of the World's Tallest Buildings: Petronas Towers The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Cesar Pelli, Architect. Photo by Geir Kristiansen/Moment Collection/Getty Images

Tall spires atop the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia make them among the world's tallest buildings, 10 meters higher than the Sears Tower in the USA.

Traditional Islamic design inspired the floor plans for two Petronas towers. Each floor of the 88-story towers is shaped like an 8-pointed star. The two towers have been called cosmic pillars that spiral heavenward. At the 42nd floor, a flexible bridge connects the two Petronas Towers.

About the Petronas Towers:

Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Architect: Cesar Pelli
Completed: 1998
Petronas Tower 1 Height: 452 meters / 1,483 feet
Petronas Tower 1 Stories: 88
Petronas Tower 2 Height: 452 meters / 1,483 feet
Petronas Tower 2 Stories: 88

Learn More:

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Sears Tower (Willis Tower)

The Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) maintains a commanding dominance of the skyline
Record-breaking Chicago Skyscraper is Still One of the Tallest The Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) maintains a commanding dominance of the skyline. Photo by Bruce Leighty/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The Sears Tower in Chicago was the world's tallest building when it was built in 1973. Today it is one of the tallest building in North America.

To provide stability against high winds, architect Bruce Graham used a new form of tubular construction for Sears Tower. Two hundred sets of bundled tubes were laid into the bedrock. Then, 76,000 tons of prefabricated steel in 15-foot by 25-foot sections were put into place. Four derrick cranes moved higher with each floor to lift these steel "Christmas Trees" into position.

About the Sears Tower:

Historically Named: Sears Tower—As part of a rental deal, Willis Group Holdings, Ltd. renamed the Sears Tower in 2009
Current Name: Willis Tower
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Architect: Bruce Graham, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM)
Completed: 1973
Height: 442 meters / 1,450 feet (highest occupied floor is 1,431 feet above the ground)
Stories: 110

  • The Sears Tower covers two city blocks and has 101 acres (4.4 million square feet) of space.
  • The roof rises 1/4 of a mile - 1,454 feet (442 meters)..
  • The foundation and the floor slabs have some 2,000,000 cubic feet of concrete - enough to build an eight-lane highway 5 miles long.
  • The Tower has more than 16,000 bronze-tinted windows and 28 acres of black duranodic aluminum skin.
  • The 222,500-ton building is supported by 114 rock caissons socketed into the bedrock.
  • A 106-cab elevator system (including 16 double-decker elevators) divides the Tower into three separate zones with skylobbies in between.
  • Two domed entrances, one with skylights, were added in 1984 and 1985.
  • is the popular observation Skydeck.

Architect Bruce Graham talks about Sears Tower:

"The stepback geometry of the 110-story tower was developed in response to the interior space requirements of Sears, Roebuck and Company. The configuration incorporates the unusually large office floors necessary to Sears' operation along with a variety of smaller floors. The building plan consists of nine 75 x 75 foot column-free squares at the base. Floor sizes are then reduced by eliminating 75 x 75 foot increments at varying levels as the tower rises. A system of double-deck express elevators provides effective vertical transportation, carrying passengers to either of two skylobbies where transfer to single local elevators serving individual floors occurs."
-from Bruce Graham, SOM, by Stanley Tigerman.

Learn More:

  • Sears Tower: A Building Book from the Chicago Architecture Foundation by Jay Pridmore, Pomegranate, 2002
    Buy on Amazon

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The Jin Mao Building

Jin Mao Tower (left) in Shanghai, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), Architects, near the iconic shape of the World Financial Center (right)
Pictures of the World's Tallest Buildings: The Jin Mao Building Jin Mao Tower (left) in Shanghai, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), Architects, near the iconic shape of the World Financial Center (right). Photo by vip2014/Moment Open Collection/Getty Images

The towering Jin Mao Building in Shanghai, China reflects traditional Chinese architecture. The architects at Skidmore Owings & Merrill designed the Jin Mao Building around the number eight. Shaped like a Chinese pagoda, the skyscraper is divided into segments. The lowest segment has 16 stories, and each succeeding segment is 1/8 smaller than the one below.

About the Jin Mao Building:

Location: Shanghai, China
Architect: Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM)
Completed: 1999
Height: 421 meters / 1,381 feet
Stories: 88

The Jin Mao Building combines shopping and commercial space with office space and, on the upper 38 stories, the towering Grand Hyatt Hotel.

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Two International Finance Centre (IFC)

Two International Finance Centre (IFC) in Hong Kong. Cesar Pelli, Architect.
Pictures of the World's Tallest Buildings: Two IFC, Hong Kong Two International Finance Centre (IFC) in Hong Kong. Cesar Pelli, Architect. Photo by Anuchit Kamsongmueang/Moment Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Shaped like a shimmering obelisk, the Two IFC building towers over Victoria Harbour on the north shore of Hong Kong Island. Two IFC is the taller of two International Finance Centre buildings and part of a US$2.8 billion complex that includes a luxury shopping mall, the Four Seasons Hotel, and Hong Kong Station. The complex is located on the north shore of Hong Kong Island, across from Victoria Harbour where an even taller skyscraper, the International Commerce Centre (ICC), was completed in 2010.

About Two IFC:

Location: Hong Kong
Architect: Cesar Pelli
Completed: 2003
Height: 414 meters / 1,362 feet
Stories: 88

Architect Cesar Pelli was selected to design the Two IFC skyscraper after winning an international design competition.

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CITIC Plaza, Guangzhou

391 meters / 1,283 feet tall
Pictures of the World's Tallest Buildings: CITIC Plaza CITIC Plaza in Guangzhou, China, DLN Architects. Photo by Daniel Villoldo/NonCommercial-ShareAlike

The China International Trust and Investment Company (CITIC) building in Guangzhou is one of the world's tallest skyscrapers made of reinforced concrete. Also known as Sky Central Plaza and China International Trust & Investment Plaza, the CITIC office tower with its light blue façade is flanked by two 38-story apartment buildings. The CITIC Plaza also has a train station, a metro station, and the Tianhe Sports Center.

About CITIC Plaza:

Location: Guangzhou, China
Architect: DLN Architects
Completed: 1997
Height: 391 meters / 1,283 feet
Stories: 80

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Shun Hing Square

Shun Hing Square alongside Lizhi Park, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
Pictures of the World's Tallest Buildings: Shun Hing Square Shun Hing Square (left) alongside Lizhi Park, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. Photo by Ian Trower/AWL Images Collection/Getty Images

Also known as Di Wang Mansion or Di Wang Commercial Centre, Shun Hing Square in Shenzhen is the tallest all-steel highrise in China.

Shun Hing Square in Shenzhen, China is like an entire city in a single building. The colorful, green-glassed facade encloses a 5-story shopping mall, offices, apartments, and, on the top floor, a public observatory called the Meridian View Centre. The top, in true postmodernist style, looks like a double bell ringer from an old telephone—or maybe inverted lollipops stuck on the roof.

About Shun Hing Square:

Location: Shenzhen, China
Architect: K.Y. Cheung Design Assc.
Completed: 1996
Height: 384 meters / 1,260 feet
Stories: 69

The spires on Shun Hing Square account for much of the building's height. If you don't measure its spires, Shun Hing Square is 325 meters, or 1,066 feet, tall.

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Central Plaza, Hong Kong

374 meters / 1,227 feet tall
World's Tallest Buildings: Central Plaza in Hong Kong Central Plaza in Hong Kong. Ng Chun Man, Architect. Photo © Chan

Towering over the Wanchai waterfront in Hong Kong, the Central Plaza office building is 374 meters tall. The office tower appears to be triangular, but the three corners are cut off to maximize interior space. The modified triangular shape of the tower enhances views from the offices. A square or rectangular shape would have not offered as many views of the Wanchai waterfront.

About Central Plaza:

Location: Hong Kong
Architect: Ng Chun Man
Completed: 1992
Height: 374 meters / 1,227 feet
Stories: 78

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Empire State Building

NYC skyline showing art deco Empire State Building foreground and WTC1 in background
Historic AND Tall: New York's Art Deco Skyscraper Empire State Building, New York City, Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, 381 meters / 1,250 feet tall. Photo by focusstock/E+ Collection/Getty Images

The Empire State Building was designed in the Art Deco period of the 20th century. The building does not have zigzag Art Deco decoration, but its stepped shape is typical of the Art Deco style. The Empire State Building is tiered, or stepped, like an ancient Egyptian or Aztec pyramid. The spire, surprisingly designed as a mooring mast for dirigibles, adds to the Empire State Building's height.

When it was constructed in 1931, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the World, and it remained the world's tallest until 1972, when the original Twin Towers at New York's World Trade Center were completed. After terrorist attacks destroyed that World Trade Center in 2001, the Empire State Building once again became New York's tallest building. It remained so from 2001 until 2014, until "Freedom Tower," now called 1 World Trade Center, opened for business. In this photo, 1WTC in Lower Manhattan is the shiny skyscraper to the right of the Empire State Building.

About the Empire State Building:

Location: New York City, New York, USA
Architect: Shreve, Lamb and Harmon
Grand Opening: May 1, 1931
Height: 381 meters / 1,250 feet
Stories: 102

Located at 350 Fifth Avenue, the Empire State Building has an observation deck and is one of New York City's most popular tourist attractions. Unlike most skyscrapers, all four facades are visible from the street—a visual landmark when you exit the trains at Penn Station.

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