Buildings tell stories that span several decades — and sometimes even centuries. They provide glimpses into cultures, traditions and technology of the age they belong to. In this manner, they connect civilisations to the all-pervading time and become nodal points on the contours of human history. Of course, many of these buildings are also among the most expensive in the world.
The actual cost of a building is understood as the money spent on its construction. This can also include costs incurred for land acquisition, modifications to existing structures, minor buildings that form part of the project, and other similar expenditures connected to the main project. However, it can still be difficult to assess the exact cost of a building. This could be because of the age of the building and the availability of records, among many other reasons.
Yet, all expensive buildings convey a singular message — that the land on which they stand is economically mighty. Indeed, all of them are in developed countries, which are among the highest scorers on social and human development indexes.
Some of the most expensive buildings in the world
Masjid Al-Haram, Saudi Arabia
Also known as the Great Mosque of Mecca, the Masjid Al-Haram is the largest mosque in the world. It is built around the Kaaba, the holiest shrine in Islam. The mosque is the destination for millions of Muslims who undertake pilgrimages of the Hajj and Umrah.
Masjid Al-Haram has undergone several expansions over centuries and, more significantly, in the last 100 years. According to Arab News, its most recent expansion began in 2015 under King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who aimed to increase the mosque’s capacity to accommodate nearly two million worshippers on a 1.5-million-square-metre site.
Some media reports claim that the total cost of the expansion project cost the Saudi Arabian government around USD 100 billion. However, the exact figure is not confirmed.
The UAE’s English-language daily The National said in a report that the estimated construction cost was USD 26.6 billion and that the government paid another USD 35.5 billion to landowners as compensation for the projects. That would bring the total expenditure on the project to around USD 62 billion. Even if the estimated construction cost of USD 26.6 billion is considered, the mosque would still be the costliest building in the world.
It is also noteworthy that whatever the actual figure, it relates only to the expansion costs and not the historic value of the Great Mosque of Mecca.
Abrāj al-Bait, Saudi Arabia
The Abrāj al-Bait, or Makkah Royal Clock Tower, is a massive skyscraper complex overlooking the Masjid Al-Haram. It is a government-owned complex with seven skyscrapers housing hotels, shopping centres and residential apartments, among other facilities.
It is part of the King Abdulaziz Endowment Project and is instantly recognisable for the central tower building. Standing 601 metres tall, it has the world’s largest clock face on each of its four sides.
Construction of the complex began in 2004 and was completed in 2012. A 2013 CNN report says that the project cost USD 15 billion.
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Marina Bay Sands opened in 2010 and instantly became the crown jewel of the Singaporean skyline. It is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the world — one that instantly informs curious travellers that they are in the Lion City.
Developed by Las Vegas Sands Corp., the integrated resort was designed by architect Moshe Safdie. It comprises three hotel towers, connected by a top-level walkway known as the Sands SkyPark.
To many, the outstandingly beautiful Sands SkyPark looks like a luxury ship sitting on top of the three buildings. Its 15-metre Infinity pool is the world’s largest elevated body of water outdoors.
There are 2,200 hotel rooms in Marina Bay Sands, besides world-class celebrity chef restaurants, Singapore’s largest nightclub, a theatre and a Las Vegas-style casino, among other luxury spaces.
A total of USD 5.7 billion went into the construction of the Marina Bay Sands.
An expansion plan worth USD 3.3 billion was announced in 2022. Among other additions, the expansion will add 1,000 luxury suites to the integrated resort and create an entertainment arena with a 15,000-seat capacity. Another USD 1 billion will be spent on the renovation of the hotel properties. The expansion project is expected to be completed in 2026.
The Cosmopolitan, US
The Cosmopolitan is a 3,000-room hotel along the Las Vegas Strip, Nevada. Built at a cost of USD 4 billion, it opened in 2010 with a casino, several restaurants, the Marquee nightclub and a swimming pool on the fourth floor overlooking Las Vegas Boulevard.
Private equity major Blackstone, through Blackstone Real Estate Partners, acquired the property in 2014 from Deutsche Bank for only USD 1.73 billion. According to a report by American commercial real estate media CoStar, Deutsche Bank took the property through foreclosure after its former owner defaulted on a construction loan.
Blackstone worked on the property, which included redesigning guest rooms and adding penthouses, among other uplifts.
Blackstone struck two deals connected to the sale of the property in 2021. One was worth USD 4 billion for the acquisition of the property itself by a collective comprising the Cherng Family Trust, real estate investment firm Stonepeak Partners and Blackstone’s own real estate fund named Real Estate Income Trust Inc.
The second deal was with MGM Resorts, which is in charge of the hotel’s operations. It was worth USD 1.6 billion. Both deals were completed in early 2022. This is why some cite the value of the building as USD 5.6 billion.
SoFi Stadium, US
The SoFI Stadium is both historic and massive — it measures 288,000 square metres in size and is built on the former site of the iconic Hollywood Park Racetrack in Inglewood.
Home to both the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers of the National Football League (NFL), the stadium was opened in 2020. Among its several unique design features are the depth of its football field, which lies about 30.4 metres below ground level, and a massive ring-like video screen suspended from above which is larger than the size of the field itself.
The stadium’s construction was financed by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who spent close to USD 5 billion on it, making it one of the most expensive buildings in the world.
Apple Park, US
Built at a cost of USD 5 billion, the iconic headquarters of Apple Inc. is widely considered one of the most impressive office campuses in the world. It is situated in Cupertino, California.
The brainchild of the company’s late co-founder Steve Jobs and designed by architecture firm Foster + Partners, the Apple Park building complex spans an area of 260,128 square metres and comprises multiple buildings as part of the campus.
Its spaceship-shaped main building, which has a circumference of 1.6 kilometres, is the world’s largest naturally ventilated building.
There is also the Steve Jobs Theater measuring 14,807 square metres with a seating capacity of 1,000. A four-floor office building with a cafeteria, a fitness centre with a two-storey yoga studio and a visitor centre are among the other buildings on the property.
The Apple Park is where Apple holds some of its major events, such as Far Out 2022 where the company launched the iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8.
Wynn Palace, China
Located in Macau SAR, Wynn Palace is an integrated resort built by Wynn Resorts. It opened its doors to patrons in 2016, six years after construction began.
Its developers spent USD 4.2 billion on the property, which has 1,706 sumptuous rooms and suites along with an array of restaurants, a spa and a Retail Esplanade.
Every room in Wynn Palace has gold toothbrushes, and its retail space boasts outlets of some of the hottest luxury fashion brands, including Gucci, Prada, Hermes and Chanel. Besides these attractions, Performance Lake’s fountain show can be best experienced from air-conditioned cable cars which are part of the Wynn Palace.
At the time of its opening, its artwork collection was worth over USD 125 million (around Rs 8,375 million) and included a stainless steel Tulips sculpture by Jeff Koons, weighing three tons.
The Wynn Palace takes pride in having earned more Forbes Travel Guide Five Star Awards than any independent hotel company in the world.
One World Trade Center, US
Also known as Freedom Tower, One World Trade Center is an iconic skyscraper in New York City in the US. It stands where the World Trade Center complex — the twin towers that were destroyed in a terrorist attack on 11 September 2001 — once stood.
Its height of 540 metres converts to 1,776 feet, which is a reference to the year when the US Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. The height also makes it the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
Designed by architect David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), construction of the 104-storey building started in 2006. Besides being historically, culturally and politically significant, it is also among the most expensive buildings in the world.
Built at a cost of USD 3.8 billion, it eventually opened to the public in 2014. Within four years of its opening, around 8,000 people were working in the building for a range of companies.
The One World Observatory, one of the most significant draws of the tower, is located on the 102nd floor. Opened in 2015, tickets to the observatory start at USD 44 (around Rs 3,634) and can go up to USD 74 (Rs 6,112).
Lotte World Tower, South Korea
Standing 555 metres tall in Seoul, the Lotte World Tower is one of the 10 tallest buildings in the world and the most expensive building in South Korea. It has 123 floors and houses a luxury hotel, a number of cafés and a range of galleries. There is also an observation deck and a skywalk, from where the view of Seoul — during the day or night — is mesmerising.
Construction of the building started in 2011 and ended in 2016. Its total cost was around USD 3.25 billion. Its design draws inspiration from traditional Korean writing brushes and ceramics. The tower’s 223 residential accommodations, known as Signiel Residences, are located from the 42nd to the 71st floors.
Above them, spanning seven floors — from 117th to 123rd — is Seoul Sky. Perched at 500 metres, it is one of the world’s highest observation decks.
Next to the tower is the Lotte World Mall, one of the most famous shopping and entertainment destinations in the most expensive building at Seoul.
Emirates Palace, UAE
The most striking feature of the Emirates Palace — the luxury five-star hotel owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi — is the golden aura of its 2,000 square metres of ceilings and domes. It gets its sheen from the 22-carat gold leaves and silver that are affixed to the structure and are replaced every four to five years.
A total of 1,002 Swarovski chandeliers across rooms, halls and lobbies add to the opulence of the luxury hotel.
One of the most expensive buildings in the world, the Emirates Palace is among the most famous destinations in Abu Dhabi. It was opened in 2005 and was built at a cost of USD 3 billion. Apart from 394 rooms and suites, the hotel offers several other unparalleled luxuries such as a private beach measuring 1.3 kilometres, multiple swimming pools and a private marina.
The length of the main building is more than a kilometre from one wing to the other. The central dome of the luxury hotel contains gold, the mother of pearls and crystals.
Its guests include everyone, from heads of state to celebrities such as Dwayne Johnson — one of the world’s most-followed icons on Instagram.
(Main image: Carles Rabada/Unsplash; Featured image: Fiaz Mohammed/Unsplash)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: The most expensive building in the world as of 2022 is the Great Mosque at Mecca.
Answer: It is not known whether Antilia is costlier than Burj Khalifa. While Antilia's reported cost is between USD 1-2 billion, Burj Khalifa is estimated to be around USD 1.5 billion.
Answer: According to several reports, Burj Khalifa cost USD 1.5 billion.
Answer: Some reports say the price of Antilia in INR is around 60 to 120 billion. Other say it is around INR 150 billion.