Skyscrapers that seem to rise endlessly above the cities at their feet fascinate more than just architecture enthusiasts. And nothing proves that more than the tallest buildings in the world. Their striking design plays a part, no doubt, but their seemingly physics-defying existence is what really draws a viewer’s eye up. While tall buildings can be found all over the planet, most of the tallest are located in Asia. In fact, half of the building in this list are in China alone. Read on to learn about these wonders of engineering, where they’re located, and some of the fascinating stories behind them.
#12 Shanghai World Financial Center in Shanghai, China
Shanghai World Financial Center rises 1,614 feet into the sky, right next to another building on this list, the Shanghai Tower. It houses offices and hotels, among other things. Because of its unusual shape, it has earned a tongue-in-cheek nickname: the bottle opener. It was designed by American architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), a studio resposible for nearly half of the buildings on this list.
#11 Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei 101 is 1,667 feet high and towers above the other rooftops of Taipei. Compared to the other buildings on this list, it stands out thanks to its unusual shape, which was inspired by traditional Chinese architecture. The skyscraper mainly houses offices, but also restaurants and a viewing platform. Every New Year’s Eve, fireworks are set off from the roof attracting celebrating spectators from all over the world.
#10 China Zun Tower in Beijing
Beijing’s tallest building is also among the tallest buildings in the world: the China Zun Tower, also known as the CITIC Tower. The skyscraper stands at 1,732 feet tall and mainly houses offices. A zun is an ancient Chinese vessel for wine, and the building’s profile echoes this shape. The design was a collaboration between the architectural firms Farrells and KPF.
#9 Tianjin CTF Finance Center in Tianjin, China
It's not just similar names that Tianjin CTF Finance Center and Guangzhou CTF Finance Center have in common: they're the same height too. Tying for spots eight and nine, both towers come in at 1,739 feet. For the former, its softly curving glass walls are more than just beautiful—they have the practical benefit of reducing exposure to wind, sun, and moisture. This building, like others on this list, is mainly used for offices, apartments, retail space, and hotel rooms. This record-breaker was designed by architects at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
#8 Guangzhou CTF Finance Center in Guangzhou, China
The Guangzhou CTF Finance Center in Guangzhou, on the other hand, is boxier in its silhouette, and sits atop an eight-story podium. The building houses offices, hotel rooms, and retail space. Forth Bagley, the lead architect on the project, used white glazed tiles for the vertical mullions of the structure, a nod to a local craft tradition. This soaring building is another from KPF.
#7 One World Trade Center in New York City
At 1,775 feet, One World Trade Center in New York is the tallest building in both the city and the country. By comparison, the Empire State Building is only 1,453 feet high. The building was designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and constructed on the site where the original World Trade Center towers stood until September 11, 2001. One World Trade Center is not only a soaring skyscraper, it also serves as a powerful memorial and symbol of resilience.
#6 Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea
The Lotte World Tower is located in Seoul and, at a height of 1,821 feet, it is the tallest building in South Korea and the sixth tallest building in the world. Also designed by KPF, it holds offices, apartments, a hotel, store, concert hall, and a viewing platform.
#5 Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen, China
A 1,965-foot-high skyscraper rises above Shenzhen’s skyline: the Ping An Finance Center. Built to provide an anchor for the city’s business district, the 100-story building is centered around an atrium space and serves as the headquarters of the Ping An Insurance company. It was designed by KPF.
#4 Makkah Royal Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Makkah Royal Clock Tower, also known as Abraj Al Bait, is located in Mecca and reaches an astounding height of 1,972 feet. The Clock Tower complex includes seven hotels that cater to the millions of pilgrims who visit Mecca each year. The Great Mosque of Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, is located less than a quarter mile from the development. Besides being the fourth tallest building in the world, the clock topping the structure is the largest in the world. With faces on all four sides, each has a diameter of 141 feet.
#3 Shanghai Tower in Shanghai (China)
The Shanghai Tower, designed by the American firm Gensler and located in the Chinese metropolis of the same name, rises 2,073 feet into the air. Directly next to Shanghai Financial Center, it’s the tallest building in China. Among the many stats that make the tower impressive, one of its most special features is its nine different indoor zones, each with its own atrium, garden, and cafes. The Shanghai Tower’s twisting shape is both aesthetic and practical as it reduces wind resistance.
#2 Merdeka 118 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur’s Merdeka 118, also known as PNB 118, is the second tallest building in the world and the newest addition among these many impressive skyhighs. At 2,228 feet, it was completed just this year. The original name of the building is short for Permodalan Nasional Berhad, a Malaysian investment management company that developed the project and will occupy most of the building when it opens in 2024. However, tts current name means “independence” in Malay and was chosen in honor of nearby Stadium Merdeka, the site of the country’s declaration of independence in 1957.
#1 Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Burj Khalifa currently holds the title of the tallest building in the world. The 2,717-foot-high skyscraper is located in Dubai and houses apartments, offices, and hotel rooms, as well as the world’s highest restaurant and the world’s highest viewing platform. Construction of the building, designed by Adrian Smith of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, began in 2004 and it was officially completed in 2010. Since then, it has not only been the tallest building in the world, but also the one with the most floors. Incidentally, the Burj Khalifa is named after Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the former president of the United Arab Emirates.