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ALTISSIMI? NON GRAZIE

If skyscrapers are a proxy for economic power, what happened to western Europe?

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
Pretty buildings, but no tall ones.
By Corinne Purtill
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

On March 4, the London-based Financial Times ran a story (paywall) educating readers on skyscrapers, the multistory structures that have been part of most city skylines for the last 132 years.

Given that the first skyscraper appeared in Chicago in 1885, and the buildings were widespread across the globe by the late 20th century, the story seems puzzlingly late to the trend. That is, until you look at the data and realize how few skyscrapers Europe actually has.

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The real-estate data company Emporis defines a skyscraper as a multistory building at least 100 meters (about 330 feet) tall. In its list of the 100 cities in the world with the most skyscrapers, only five—Moscow (#17), Istanbul (#19), London (#58), Frankfurt (#92), and Paris (#98)—can be considered part of Europe. And the top two European cities on the list are in countries—Russia and Turkey, respectively—that are not part of the the economic powerhouse of western Europe.

The list is dominated by Asian cities, with Hong Kong outperforming second-place New York by far to lead the list with an astounding 1,302 skyscrapers. In fact, 62 of the world’s cities with the most skyscrapers are in Asia, which has embraced vertical development with gusto. Pyongyang and Birmingham, the UK’s second biggest city, each have about 2.5 million people, but the North Korean capital has 50% more skyscrapers (27 to Birmingham’s 18).

But North American cities tend to punch way above their weight. Honolulu, Hawaii (population 375,000) has more skyscrapers (66) than London (population 8.67 million, 59 skyscrapers). Minneapolis (population 400,000) is on the list at #99. Madrid (population 3.2 million) is not. Chicago (311 skyscrapers, 2.7 million people) and Toronto (255 skyscrapers, 2.6 million people) are two of the most sky-oriented cities on the planet. Rome has about as many people (2.9 million) but just four skyscrapers (plus seven palaces, eight temples, one castle, one pyramid, and 28 churches).

Some western European cities have zoning restrictions that cap buildings’ height; others were already thoroughly developed before the advent of mega-tall structures. Yet the dearth of skyscrapers in city centers doesn’t mean Europe is scared of heights. Places like Amsterdam and Barcelona have elected to cluster high-rises on city outskirts. And a 70-story building planned in Madrid would replace the Shard in London as the tallest building in western Europe.

Here’s the full list:

Hong Kong
7.06
1,302
New York City
8.55
722
Tokyo
9.38
483
Chicago
2.72
311
Shanghai
17.84
296
Dubai
2.10
285
Shenzhen
3.54
260
Toronto
2.62
255
Guangzhou
6.56
245
Singapore
5.31
230
Chongqing
6.30
218
Tianjin
6.83
168
Seoul
10.58
165
Wuhan
6.43
164
Bangkok
8.28
163
Osaka
2.87
160
Moscow
11.50
150
Beijing
7.75
144
Istanbul
10.12
143
Xiamen
1.86
140
Kuala Lumpur
1.63
137
Jakarta
10.19
135
Guiyang
0.85
129
Hefei
5.70
129
Hangzhou
6.24
127
Mumbai
12.48
121
Changsha
3.62
120
Busan
3.53
118
Chengdu
7.68
118
Shenyang
8.11
117
Panama City
0.88
116
Ningbo
1.48
115
Melbourne
4.17
115
Sydney
4.63
111
Mexico City
8.86
110
Miami
0.43
100
Dalian
2.98
94
Incheon
2.71
92
Houston
2.30
91
Jinan
2.54
88
São Paulo
11.32
84
Harbin
3.43
83
Suzhou
1.50
81
Nanjing
8.11
80
Hanoi
2.60
79
San Francisco
0.86
78
Qingdao
2.64
74
Nanning
6.66
73
Makati
0.53
72
Ho Chi Minh City
7.40
72
Zhuhai
1.30
71
Taiyuan
4.20
67
Honolulu
0.35
66
Sharjah
0.80
65
Buenos Aires
2.89
64
Tel Aviv-Yaffo
0.41
61
Los Angeles
3.97
61
Abu Dhabi
0.92
59
Calgary
1.10
59
London
8.17
59
Atlanta
0.42
58
Kunming
3.58
58
Brisbane
2.15
57
Vancouver
0.60
53
Philadelphia
1.57
53
Rio de Janeiro
6.32
53
Las Vegas
0.62
52
Goiânia
1.45
52
Kaohsiung City
2.77
52
Ankara
4.34
52
Macau
0.57
51
Seattle
0.68
51
Boston
0.67
49
Doha
1.45
48
Wuxi
6.37
48
Zhengzhou
2.00
46
Gold Coast City
0.53
42
Dallas
1.30
41
Shijiazhuang
2.10
41
Montréal
1.72
40
Cixi
2.04
39
Yokohama
3.73
39
Taipei
2.70
37
Kobe
1.54
35
Recife
1.56
35
Caracas
2.76
35
Taguig
0.64
34
Denver
0.68
34
Liuzhou
1.44
34
Nanchang
5.04
34
Mandaluyong
0.33
33
Frankfurt am Main
0.69
31
San Diego
1.39
31
Daegu
2.45
31
Cairo
9.12
30
Manila
1.65
29
Paris
2.23
28
Fuzhou
4.47
28
Minneapolis
0.41
27
Pyongyang
2.74
27

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