A new report shows 2014 was the “tallest year ever,” with more skyscrapers constructed than in any previous year. According to statistics from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), the world gained 97 vertigo-inducing buildings last year. All extend at least 657 feet into the air, and 11 are “supertall” — soaring more than 984 feet.
The $3.9 billion One World Trade Center topped them all, with its faceted façade towering a symbolic 1,776 feet. Close behind was the World Trade Center Abu Dhabi, a skinny structure that climbs 1,251 feet. In third place, the drab Wharf Times Square 1 in Wuxi, China, failed to make much of a statement with its 1,112 feet of airspace.
China led the race to the sky, erecting a whopping 58 tall buildings. “Clearly, the Chinese juggernaut has not yet run out of steam,” authors Daniel Safarik and Antony Wood wrote. “The country continues to see new 200-metre-plus completions in cities that previously had few or no such buildings, indicating that the massive plan to urbanise the country — requiring the urban relocation of some 250 million people — is underway.”
The Philippines came in second with five massive skyscrapers, followed by the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The United States, Japan, Indonesia, and Canada each completed three tall buildings. Chile and Japan both erected their first supertall buildings, the Torre Costanera and the Abeno Harukas.
The authors suggested the trend may be evidence of a post-recession economic recovery, which they predict will endure into the next year.
“If anything, 2015 promises to be more active than 2014 and indeed, any year previous,” they wrote. “We currently project the completion of between 105 and 130 buildings of 200 meters’ height or greater, eight to 15 of which will be supertalls, and one of which will be a megatall – Shanghai Tower.”
That will be unwelcome news to those who increasingly view skyscrapers as dystopian domains of the wealthy and destroyers of urban neighborhood charm. In an October 2014 speech, the renowned architect Moshe Safdie frowned on the proliferation of high-rises, saying they create cities that are “disjointed and disconnected and not worthy of our civilization.”
And back in 2011, when building of skyscrapers last peaked, the new urbanism pioneer Andrés Duany told the Scientific American that the tall building uptick in Asia was “a fantastic cruelty that’s being perpetrated on the people … They’re destroying their neighborhoods for real-estate speculation. It absolutely breaks my heart.”
In New York, critics were hardly welcoming of 2014’s architectural newcomers. Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times called One World Trade Center, “unpromising,” “a cautionary tale,” and “symmetrical to a fault, stunted at its peak, its heavy corners the opposite of immaterial.” New York magazine’s Justin Davidson dismissed One57, a new 1,005-foot-residential tower in Midtown, as “a luxury object for people who see the city as their private snow globe.” The unremarkable design of the 977-foot-tall 4 World Trade Center hardly even won any print space at all.