high buildings

Why higher? – An architectural allegory

This is not meant to be one of those Slow Movement-ish articles, but let’s see how that goes.

First question: Would you like to get to the top of the tallest building in your city? Yes? Well, me too. It helps me getting an overview of the urban scale and somewhat has a whip out-effect before the city swallows. Usually rooftops are places where only few people are – compared to street-level. I give you an example. When I visited the great city of Sao Paulo for a couple of days with a friend, I started feeling lost in the hustle and bustle of this large urban agglomeration. By hazard we got access to the rooftop of a relatively high building from which we were able to take a look around and locate ourselves. It felt like taking a deep breath after a long day of work. My point is high buildings can be a great opportunity and preciouses places.

What is it that we have with tall buildings?

Somehow it seems that for those tall buildings one has to either lean backwards or to kneel on the ground in order to see the building in its completed height. As if the importance of a building increases exponentially, the more difficult it is to capture it within in the frame of a camera.

View from the 100 century avenue bar in Shanghai
They seem untouchable and yet are perceivable from everywhere in the city. Personally, I have seen 4 of the 10 tallest buildings in world: the Shanghai Tower, the Taipei 101, the Shanghai World Financial Center and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. With 828m the Burj Khalifa is the highest building in the world. What a competition!
There is some kind of satisfaction when reaching the top floor of the highest building of a particular city, isn’t it?
We always want more and something that is “Greater – higher – bigger“. For example: I waited in line over 1 hour for the elevator, that would take me to the top of Taipei 101. I waited, so that I could experience the feeling of being somewhere that was higher and more special than anything else in the city. Another example would be the experience of enjoying a cocktail  in the highest bar of the world, when I visited Shanghai last year (see picture above).
Tall buildings are the manifestation of the human ambition to reach a higher level.
Have you ever thought about acknowledging small buildings?  No, because they are nothing that special or outstanding. And if so those particular smaller buildings happen to be decorated with ornaments or constructed in an ancient time.
Space in urban areas of course is a rare good and expansion not always an option. And thus, skyscrapers are a clever way of using space effectively. If skyscrapers were only about effectiveness and smartness, why is there this on-going competition between countries, cities and locals to build the highest building in the world? In my opinion the competition is also indirectly supported by the sprinkle of coolness one experiences and one is able to share on social media for example. All those touristic visits pay off and create this magic vibe about the 10 highest buildings in the world. Better get there, before a higher one pops up! I feel that present consumption patterns do not only relate to food or clothes, but also to travel and bucket lists. We just want to tick it off our to-do-list.
Photo was taken by my friend Malte
Photo was taken by my friend Malte when in Sao Paulo.

Now, I feel a bit lost in criticism, which is the right moment to watch these two climbing the Shanghai Tower in 2014. The bar I was writing about earlier is located in the Shanghai World Financial Center, which you can see at circa 01:45 in this video. So this is extremely high. Don’t look down.

The whole point of this post is to say: I like architecture a lot, I enjoy rooftops and a great overview. However, I do not acknowledge the craziness and consuming vibes about the highest buildings in the world anymore. I think we should all consciously decide when enough is enough. Buildings should not be a manifestation of competition and consumption, but a fulfilling of a common purpose such as giving home to the less privileged. Anyhow, I might be a bit too critical here, so that I’d like to close with the words:

It is the view. (It has got to be.)

About the author


Hi there, I am Jo. Currently, I am a blogger and student, based in London, UK. Living in urban settings with a passion for sustainability inspired me to create this blog. Here, I want to capture and share some of my urban explorations, experiences and thoughts. Feel free to click around, give feedback, share the blog or connect with me. Cheers!

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