Tall, taller, tallest: the craze to build the world’s most towering building has often been an advance warning on political hubris and economic trouble. Dubai is but the latest example.
The West Asian desert city now boasts the Burj Dubai, the tallest free-standing structure in the world. Eleven of Dubai’s skyscrapers are taller than any European building, urban economist Edward Glaeser recently pointed out.
Asia now dominates any listing of the world’s tallest structures: Taipei 101 in Taiwan, Shanghai World Financial Center in China, the Petronas Towers in Malaysia and the Two International Finance Centre in Hong Kong, for example.
Forget Europe. Even the US, the original skyscraper nation, has not built a world-beating tower since the 1970s. The big boom in skyscraper building in the US came in the 1920s and 1930s.
Going vertical is not all bad—as long as arrogance does not overtake ambition. India could surely do with a bit of towering ambition, to replace the horizontal mess our cities have become.