Big Buildings, Booms and Busts

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The Daily Mail once interviewed the deputy editor of The Architects’ Journal, who said

“‘The race to build the highest skyscraper is quite futile – where do you stop? …These buildings are missing the point and are a symbol of an old fashioned way of thinking.”

The futility is as debatable, as the concept of the feasibility of a vertical city, personally I find the race to build the world’s tallest building a curious one.

What drives that decision?

Displays of wealth, and influence, their architectural styles are almost always divisive; after all its quite difficult for a 100 story building to be sympathetic to it’s surroundings! Yet, by dominating the city’s skyline, they lend it gravitas, helping to define them.

I don’t know about you but when I think “Kuala Lumpur” the visual I get is the Petronas Towers.

That’s an amazing accomplishment, but are these reasons enough to invest hitherto unheard of sums? After all these properties still have to deliver a sensible yield.

Yet, their sheer scale means that they risk toppling the delicate balance of supply and demand that govern most property markets.

Just as Petronas Towers struggled to find occupiers after it was built, a year after the Burj Kalifa completed, their rents dropped by 40%  and “that about 825 of the tower’s 900 apartments remained vacant.”

But was this just about scale or something more sinister?

You’ll recall in my last post I referred to the SKYSCRAPER INDEX OF DOOM!

The theory goes that the completion of the world’s tallest building usually precedes economic calamity, the Burj for instance completed just in time for the theory to hold for another cycle as we entered the global financial crisis.

So are they harbingers of doom? No, not really, at least not per se, as imposing as these towers are, they are still just reflections of the ambition, determination and the dreams of the people that bring these towering edifices into the world.

They are built then on foundations of optimism and confidence. Two items that are in abundant (perhaps even over) supply during economic booms, which as Mr Aldersley my A level economics teacher taught me, inevitably precede busts in the economic cycle which it seems the world would like to forget exists.

So what next?

Ahh yes that’s right, Sky City One, the 838m, 200 storey Chinese behemoth that the Broad Group promises will be built in just 90 days …. 90 (ninety) DAYS!

So then I guess it must be time to batten down the hatches and watch as China’s economy topples? Well, whilst some foresee problems it might perhaps still be a little too early, after all Dubai will answer that with Kingdom Tower,

Exact planned height is still a secret but estimated to be 1000m

The Kingdom Tower is widely expected to be the first property to break the 1 kilometer barrier sometime in 2018.

But that’s just the start if the CEO of the Broad Group has got anything to do with it, the race to build the world’s tallest building is turning into a land based space race, according to Reuters he has even bigger plans on his wall; a design with 636 floors with its peak towering two kilometers over the ground!

Let me say that again two kilometers! The engineering challenges will be substantial, heck look at how difficult it was to design a system to pump water up the Shard to say nothing of the other stuff

Europe’s Tallest Building, The Shard, London

On the bright side if any country has the capability of putting all that space to use its China, and nobody has yet proved any correlation to the size of the building to the size of the bust!


3 thoughts on “Big Buildings, Booms and Busts

    Bangkok Burt responded:
    August 15, 2012 at 08:35

    Here’s an article from K Street Finance that expands on the Skyscraper Index (of doom) and China.

    developingcityblog said:
    October 18, 2012 at 11:48

    This is incredibly interesting. 2km is mindblowing. 1km already is!

    Bangkok Burt responded:
    October 23, 2012 at 08:58

    Thanks, and yes I agree it’s difficult to imagine a 2km high building, the engineering challenges would be immense. Also just to update I see now that Sky City will now take a bit longer to build, but still pretty quick considering

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