Blogs about big buildings

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Ahh hello, my poorly neglected blog readers, it’s nice to be back.

Now this time Im back because there’s a topic that’s close to my heart that is simply too big for Twitter and will be of little interest to my friends and family on Facebook and perhaps even to those no real estate folks who follow me on twitter.

It’s those wonderful testaments to ambition, ego, ingenuity, innovation and engineering mastery: skyscrapers.

The next post (or two) will be specifically about the race to build the world’s tallest buildings, a topic that has been getting some press recently, so I thought I’d weigh in with my two satang as well.

But first some context, as my loyal readers will know I come from Plymouth, a coastal town home to 250,000 or so people, located in the county of Devon, in the sleepy South West of England. Where most buildings in the city center stand at no more than 5 or 6  storeys.  So buildings like the Civic Center, all 14 floors of it, stood out and today it still dominates the skyline.

That is until the developers are able to source funding for their approved 31 storey mixed use development: Oceanique .

But as funding for that project seems to be elusive, for now the Civic Center will share Plymouth’s skyline, with the very few other tall buildings, like Chichester House and Smeaton’s Tower, a much loved candy cane coloured faux lighthouse standing watch over Plymouth Hoe.

Smeaton’s Tower, the third and most notable Eddystone lighthouse.

So I think its fair to say that my first proper encounter with a true skyscraper was on a university trip to La Défense , Paris, where we had the opportunity to visit the impressive Tours Société Générale

I freely admit to being awestruck by the development, its towering glass, imposing lobby and features such as VAV, personal climate control, light sensing shades, that blew my 20 year old mind clean away.

That one visit changed the way I thought about real estate and instilled in me with a deep interest in skyscrapers, and the effect that they have on markets, cities, and us.

Then as luck/fate would have it, I found myself working with skyscrapers every day in Bangkok

The view from Bangkok’s tallest building, Baiyoke Tower, shows how Bangkok really is a city of skyscrapers

I arrived in the midst of the so called Tom Yum Goong [eugh I despisee that terminology] or Asian financial crisis of 1997, just a year after Malaysia unveiled what was, until 2003, the world’s tallest building: the striking Petronas Towers. A building that raised Kuala Lumpur’s profile, putting it on the global map (perhaps helped just a little by Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones)

The building has practically become a symbol for Malaysia itself, representing much more than its component parts. But as an investment (albeit one initiated by the states) it only managed to fill up after Petronas moved in and attracted most of the other oil and gas firms to gradually take up space over the years after it opened its doors.

The impact its opening had on the market in the wake of the crisis was significant. Occupancies plunged 18% to a little better than 80% upon opening before slipping away to 70% as the crisis took hold.

So was this a coincidence?

Well, my next post will take a look at this and the so called Skyscraper Index [of doom] in a bit more detail.


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