TOUCH THE SKY

More than half of the “supertall” skyscrapers to be completed in 2019 are in China

Building up in Shanghai.
Building up in Shanghai.
Image: Reuters/Aly Song
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One way to understand the places where economic ambition is greatest is to look to the sky. Countries with surging economies or companies that want to demonstrate their financial might often do it by building extremely tall buildings. In 2019, about 60% of all of the world’s extremely tall buildings expected to be completed are in China.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), a US-based nonprofit, defines “supertall” buildings as those that are at least 984 ft (300 m) in height. According to its estimates, 42 supertall buildings currently under construction will be completed in 2019. Of these buildings, 25 are in China. They are scattered all around 13 different cities. Chongqing, Nanjing, and Shenzhen are tied for the Chinese cities with the most supertalls to be completed, with three each.

China already has by far the most supertall buildings in the world, with 68 completed, and the new buildings will extend its lead. The United Arab Emirates (26) and the United States (20) have the second and third most, and are also adding four and five new supertalls this year. Indonesia, Kazakstan, and Mexico will enter the club of countries with a supertall skyscraper this year.

Though China has the most supertalls coming in 2019, it does not contain the city with the most supertall buildings expected to be completed this year, or the very tallest building.

Five new supertalls are scheduled for completion in New York City this year—making it this year’s biggest grower. Those five buildings are all of the supertalls slated to be completed in the US this year. They are part of a skyscraper boom in the city that includes many luxury apartment buildings. The iconic New York skyline is going to look very different when it is all over, as can be seen in this beautiful graphic from National Geographic.

The very tallest building expected to be completed this year is the Lakhta Center in St. Petersburg, Russia. At 462 m, it will be the tallest skyscraper in Europe. It will serve as the headquarters of the Russian oil company Gazprom.

If you think the “supertall” designation of 300 m (984 ft) is arbitrary, you are not wrong. It may be a silly threshold, but builders take it seriously. Just take a look at the chart below, which shows that while 15 buildings are exactly 984 ft, there are no buildings that are 985 ft tall. Arbitrary or not, builders want to be part of the supertall club.