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The tallest skyscrapers to grace the skyline around the world by 2021

Asia has a pretty commanding lead over countries in Europe and the Americas in the race to build vertically. Strong developments in building technology and a surfeit of construction projects in Asia make the title of ‘the tallest building’ more temporary than ever. It will be just a matter of time when Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, will eventually be eclipsed by a new list of skyscrapers that are currently under construction.

There are many tall buildings on the drawing board likely to be completed in the next couple of years. The current race to raise the skylines around the world is also becoming more intense. But the quest for prestige by erecting the world’s tallest structure is nothing new.

That ambition has been around since the Tower of Babel, a mythological tower described in the bible as a structure built in Babylonia. Even the 381m tall Empire State Building built in 1931 and KL’s very own Petronas Twin Towers (452m) completed in 1998 have once held the coveted title in their respective days.

In fact, American architect Frank Lloyd Wright once pictured a mile-high skyscraper at 1,600m set on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago back in 1950s. The project, named The Illinois, was never constructed, even though the legendary Wright insisted that it could have been done with the materials and designs of his day. Many of his vision and principles have found their way into today’s blueprint, especially with the soon-to-be tallest building in the world – Jeddah Tower – which was initially set to reach a mile in height, but was shortened due to site limitations.

Malaysians will also have something new to be proud of when the Merdeka PNB118 is completed in 2021. Initially scheduled to finish by 2020 to commemorate Vision 2020 set by the fourth and current Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the project is an ambitious effort for Malaysia to reinstate itself as one of the leading countries in the ASEAN region since its glorious days in the late 1990s. Merdeka PNB118 will also feature an exciting urban integration with a prestigious hotel and two historic stadiums – Stadium Negara and Stadium Merdeka – which will be incorporated into the new blueprints.

As groundwork continues and the towers erected floor by floor, these mega-skyscrapers are slowly building momentum as world’s tallest. Here are the eight tallest buildings in development around the world.

1 /8

Jeddah Tower, Saudi Arabia

Height: 1,000m 

This skyscraper will be the first to breach the one kilometre mark and will officially be the tallest in the world once it is completed in 2021. The construction of Jeddah Tower is supported by billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed Talal and is designed by Adrian Smith, the architect behind the Hancock Centre and Burj Khalifa. While critics have claimed that it is an iteration of the Burj, the tower stands proud with its own aesthetic that depicts a palm about to spread its fronds. The structure will feature a viewing deck and helipad on the 157th storey as well as an entirely new form of elevator (speedy double-decker cabins).(Image credit: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill)


2 /8

Merdeka PNB118, Malaysia

Height: 644m

Located around the area of KL’s Chinatown, Merdeka PNB118 is a megatall skyscraper that is expected to overshadow the height of César Pelli’s Petronas Twin Towers by 2021. Property developers are suggesting that this crystalline mega-structure will become a catalyst for the city’s continuous growth. The massive project is led by Australian firm Fender Katsalidis Architects and will be an exciting urban integration with the surrounding historic Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara. It is also confirmed that Park Hyatt will take up residence at the PNB118, taking the top 17 floors of the skyscraper. (Image credit: ARUP)

3 /8

Baoneng Shenyang Global Financial Centre, China

Height: 568m

This 111-storey mixed-used skyscraper situated in Shenyeng, China is also known as the Pearl of the North. It features a circular inset towards the peak – allowing the structure to be instantly recognisable within the city’s condense skyline. Set in the Golden Corridor of the city’s CBD, the architecture draws inspiration from ancient Chinese history with the canopies designed to resemble the tents of the Qing Dynasty. (Image credit: Atkins)

4 /8

Wuhan Greenland Center, China

Height: 636m

A beautiful skyscraper will emerge in the most populous city in Central China in 2019. The Wuhan Greenland Center, which is overseen by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture offers a unique tripod shape that forms a dome to reduce wind resistance. The entire structure, from the grand lobbies in the building to the corners features curved glass for a fluid and organic effect. The summit will house a private member’s club for an extra air of exclusivity. Once completed, this structure will replace Shanghai Tower as the tallest in China. (Image credit: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill)

5 /8

Grand Rama 9 Tower, Thailand

Height: 615m

Bangkok has the world’s most pixelated building, the MahaNakhon as the tallest building in the kingdom but next year, The Grand Rama 9 Tower will be taking over. The skyscraper is described as the exclamation point on Bangkok’s continued growth as a regional hub alongside its recent booming developments around the central business districts. Named after a famous Thai king, the building will also include a six-star hotel in its blueprint. American architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill currently oversees the project. (Image credit: Grand Canal Land Public Company Limited)


6 /8

Tianjin CTF Finance Centre, China

Height: 530m

Also designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is the Tianjin Chow Tai Fook Finance Centre, which is sited in one of the fastest developing cities in the republic. The sloping building features a crystallised façade that highlights the curves of the structure, which is purportedly designed to reduce wind forces impacting the tower. Its façade illustrates a vertical axis that draws a line to the peak with illuminating lighting effects – ensuring strong visual impact along the vibrant cityscape. (Image credit: SOM)

7 /8

Central Park Tower, USA

Height: 472m

The latest entry to the Billionaire’s Row in Manhattan is the highly anticipated Central Park Tower New York. This is another Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill project, adding to the city’s high-end residential market. It is about time for the U.S. to have a skyscraper that is part of the world’s top ten tallest buildings. Curated by the same big boys behind the Burj and Jeddah Tower, this skyscraper will be one of the most magnificent centerpiece overlooking the verdant Central Park. (Image credit: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill)

8 /8

Zun Tower, China

Height: 528m

The Zun Tower (also known as CITIC Tower) is in the final stages of completion and is set to open its doors somewhere in September 2018. It is slated to be the tallest building in Beijing, surpassing the China World Trade Centre Tower 3 by 190m. It is ironically modeled after a ceremonial ‘zun’ vessel, which is a bronze or ceramic household item meant to store wine. The unique concave tower will comprise office spaces, private clubs, an observation deck and a dramatic lobby entrance on the ground floor. (Image credit: KPF)

The tallest skyscrapers to grace the skyline around the world by 2021

Martin Teo


Martin has a bent for history and food culture, especially of the Peranakan heritage. Since the pandemic, he finds joy in plant parenting and continues to expand his collection of Philodendrons, Anthuriums, and Syngoniums. On his free time, he finds time scouring through the latest cafes in search for the best croissant in the city.


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