The 2,722-foot-tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai has basked in the glory of being the tallest building in the world since it was opened in 2010 as part of a project called Downtown Dubai. But its days as a superlative are numbered. It would have been surpassed by now in fact, if construction delays had not beset the up-and-coming contender, the Jeddah Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Plans call for the Jeddah Tower to be 3,281 feet tall, becoming the first building in the world to reach one kilometer — almost two-thirds of a mile — into the sky. Construction began in 2013 with an anticipated completion date of 2017. But the project was delayed in 2018, with the tower about one-third complete, because of labor issues. The target date for completion was then set for 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic made that impossible.
There has long been a fascination with taller and taller buildings. From 1931 to 1970, the Empire State Building in New York held the title of tallest building on the planet after edging out the Chrysler Building by four feet, in what was known as the “Race Into the Sky.” Now the Empire State doesn’t even make the list of the top five buildings in the city, and the Chrysler Building is not in the list of the top 10.
In 1956, Frank Lloyd Wright unveiled his design for a mile-high skyscraper called “The Illinois” that was intended for Chicago. It was never built, but Chicago did hold the world’s tallest building title from 1973 to 1998 with the 1,450-foot Sears Tower, now called the Willis Tower. (These are now the tallest buildings in every state.)
In terms of fascination with height, China is currently the leader, with 35 of the 50 tallest buildings under construction. The United Arab Emirates and Malaysia have three each, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. each have two, and Thailand, Russia, Egypt, Indonesia, and India have one apiece. And the race into the sky isn’t stopping: In addition to those already under construction, these are the tallest proposed buildings in the world.
Jeddah Tower, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
> Height: 3,281 ft, 167 floors
> Estimated completion: N/A