Any building that fits into the category of the ‘world’s tallest’ will always be well-known for its height alone. The building itself does not have to fit into a particular aesthetic or perform a particular function; being the biggest is often equated by some with being the best.
Architects in the know realise that height does not equal quality, but according to Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat chairman Timothy Johnson, it is natural to literally aim for the sky and to admire those who reach such heights.
“If you have enough money, I’m sure the human mind can create a lot higher,” says Johnson. “Who are we to say it’s good or bad? People want to push higher and higher. That’s just human nature, isn’t it?”
This discussion is particularly relevant as the building expected to break current ‘world tallest’ benchmarks, Jeddah’s Kingdom Tower, secures both developmental and financial foundations.
Planned to eclipse today’s tallest building, the 828-metre Burj Khalifa in Dubai, Kingdom Tower is expected to stand just over a kilometer tall at 1,001 metres.
With a price tag of $1.2 billion, financing the monolithic structure was a difficult task says chief executive officer and managing director of Kingdom Real Estate Development Co. Talal Al Maiman.
“We have all the investors, all the finance, all the money we need,” Al Maiman says. “It took us beyond 20 months to convince investors, working every detail and aspect of financing.”
According to both Al Maiman and Johnson, it makes sense that the investment interest in the skyscraper would be high given that the building will stand as a symbol of ego, pride and money.
“People want to move from the position of houses to apartments,” says Al Maiman. “We have lots of rich people in Saudi Arabia.”
It is the ego of such people that Johnson attests will drive the development of these kinds of structures, even if the industry demand for them revolves more heavily around pushing structural limits.
“What’s happening in the Middle East is a bit of ego,” says Johnson. “A lot of this is built with oil money. There isn’t necessarily the demand, however the people building these want to push human ingenuity.”
While pushing industry boundaries does paint a far more positive picture than the notion of developing these tall buildings as an extension or portrayal of wealth, realistically, both are factors leading to such monolithic structure being built. Architects may celebrate the former and simply acknowledge the latter as a means to an end, rather than the key motivator for industry efforts.