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The 10 Tallest Buildings Under Construction or In Development

by Patrick Sisson

From left to right: Azerbaijan Tower, image via Avesta; Kingdom Tower, Image via Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architects; and Suzhou Zhongnan Center, image via Gensler

Frank Lloyd Wright once proposed The Illinois, a mile-high skyscraper set on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago, a towering giant of a building powered by atomic elevators. It’s clear symbol of the current race to raise skylines around the world that Wright’s vision from the ’50s, yet to be realized, is coming closer and closer to reality. Developments in building technology and a surfeit of construction projects in Asia makes the title of tallest building more temporary than ever; none of the buildings on this list of the ten tallest in waiting are in North America, and every one eclipses the height of One World Trade Center. This list contains the tallest under construction or relatively far into the development phase; there are many others on the drawing board, but this is meant to showcase the projects more likely to be completed.

azerkingdom.jpgAzerbaijan Tower, image via Avesta (left); Kingdom Tower, Image via Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architects (right)

Azerbaijan Tower (near Baku, Azerbaijan: 3,445 feet, estimated completion 2019)
The brainchild of Azerbaijiani aristocrat Ibrahim Ibrahimov, who cruises the capital of Baku in a black Rolls-Royce, and the centerpiece of the planned city of Khazar Islands, hyped with a 2022 opening date and plans for a Formula One Track and eight hotels, this cylindrical tower would measure top out above both the current world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, as well as the forthcoming Kingdom Tower. Like both of those examples, it would be a steel-and-glass spotlight meant to attract business, investment and attention, funded by oil exports. While there have been recent examples of extraordinary structures in the Caspian capital, such as Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Center, the lack of progress suggests this flight of fancy may have trouble getting off the ground, even with a steady supply of petrodollars.

Kingdom Tower (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: 3,304 feet, estimated completion 2019)
The second tower on this list likely will become the first to break the one kilometer mark, not merely because it’s already under construction and supported by the deep pockets of billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, but because it was designed by Adrian Smith. An architect whose career highlights include the Hancock Center and Burj Khalifa, Smith designed the Kingdom Tower to be the next iteration of the Burj, a shard of steel and glass that, in its triangular shape, recalls a palm about to spread its fronds. The centerpiece of a new suburb, Kingdom Tower will shatter records, offer sightseers a perch on the 157th story (site of a proposed helipad), and even showcase an entirely new type of elevator, speedy double-decker cabins swept between floors by a new carbon fiber cord. Perhaps more incredible is that Kingdom Tower was meant to be a mile high, but engineers discovered that the surrounding geology unsuitable to support such a structure.

towertwo.jpgSuzhou Zhongnan Center, image via Gensler (left); Dubai One Tower, Image via Meydian City Corporation (right)

Suzhou Zhongnan Center (Suzhou, China: 2,392 feet, estimated completion 2020)
The first supertall on this list being built in China (certainly not the last), this thin, tapering tower features a teardrop-shaped opening near the top, resembling the top of a needle. Under construction since 2014, this structure is estimated to cost $4.46 billion, and will be the tallest in China once completed

Dubai One Tower (Dubai, United Arab Emirates: 2,332 feet, estimated completion 2020)
Sure, a supertall project is impressive, but will but have an indoor ski slope? That’s the gauntlet being thrown by this upscale residential development in the Gulf state, the current capital of extravagant construction projects, which is set to include a string of shopping and entertainment facilities (called the Mall of the World) as well as the highest residential tower in the world. If completed according to plan, it’ll measure nearly a full 1,000 feet above 432 Park Avenue in New York, the current residential tower record holder. While renderings are relatively preliminary, the structure as proposed will have a solid face, as opposed to a tapering, curved design.

towerthree.jpgWuhan Greenland Center, image via Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill (left); KL118 (right)

Wuhan Greenland Center (Wuhan, China: 2,087 feet, estimated completion 2017)
Another project being overseen by the firm of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, this in-the-works tower in central China offers a unique, curved profile, a tripod shape that tapers and forms a dome to reduce wind resistance. The entire structure, from the grand lobbies to the corners fashioned in curved glass, present a fluid profile, reducing the building’s material footprint. To add an additional air of exclusivity, the summit of this multi-use super tall will include a private member’s club.

KL118 (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: 2,083 feet, estimated completion 2020)
Property developers are hoping this crystalline tower becomes as much of a catalyst for the city as César Pelli’s Petronas Towers, still the tallest twin structures in the world. This is a massive project for Australian firm Fender Katsalidis Architects, which has been attached to a series of tall towers in Melbourne.

tower four.jpgPing An Finance Center, image via Kohn Pedersen Fox (left); Goldin Finance 117, image via Arup(right)

Ping An Finance Center (Shenzhen, China: 1,965 feet, estimated completion 2016)
Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, this huge stone-and-glass tower was being assembled at the prodigious rate of a floor every four days earlier this year. Already topped out, the building has become a centerpiece of the city’s central business district, as well as a lure for daredevil stunts; it’s already been scaled, with the ascent captured on GoPro.

Goldin Finance 117 (Tianjin, China: 1,957 feet: estimated completion 2016)
Set to be the country’s third tallest when finished and an example of the relentless pace of skyscraper development in China, this tower utilizes unique foundations and structural engineering, including especially slender pilings one meter in diameter that are dug 100 meters into the ground. Also called the Walking Stick, the building is capped by a diamond-shaped observation deck.

tower five.jpgBaoneng Shenyang Global Financial Center, image via Atkins (left); Lotte World Tower, image via Kohn Pedersen Fox (right)

Baoneng Shenyang Global Financial Center (Shenyeng, China: 1,864 feet, estimated completion 2018)
Nicknamed the Pearl of the North, the 111-story, mixed-use skyscraper will feature a circular inset towards the apex as well as a luxury auto showroom towards the top floor and a smaller sister tower, both designed by Atkins.

Lotte World Tower (Seoul, South Korea: 1,819, completed 2016)
Despite a rocky construction process that’s seen a string of accidents galvanize the Korean media, this Seoul landmark is still on course to finish next fall. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, the building, a cone of pale-colored glass, is supported by a grid of steel and concrete core.