I like to get high. Wait, I should clarify that. I don’t mean that I like to lose my faculties of reason or ‘expand’ my consciousness by partaking in mind-altering substances. I mean, I like to get up high, as in altitude, the higher the better. Nor am I talking about air travel. Yes, 40,000 feet is high, but in a phallic metal tube one might as well be on a very expensive bus for all the sensation.
I’m talking about being high up in the built environment, having one’s feet on the ground, or floor really, while looking down from a dizzying height – I’m talking about skyscrapers. So yeah, my opening line should probably have been: ‘I like skyscrapers’, but it’s more than like. I love them and these are my personal favourites. Maybe you love them, too.
The Empire State Building, New York.
Too obvious? I don’t care. When it comes to skyscrapers this one is the daddy, the one that all others are compared to. It is one hundred and two stories of art deco awesomeness on Fifth Avenue that has become a cultural icon for New York and the good old US of A. Completed in 1931, and nothing short of a miracle of engineering, it was the tallest building in the world for almost forty years. The spire on top, you’ll hear on the tour, was added to make sure it topped out higher than the Chrysler building. But it was also intended as a mooring point for dirigible aircraft – how cool is that – until they realized that it was nothing short of crazy-ass dangerous due to updrafts and no ground moorings. Great plan, otherwise.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai.
Holder of any height-related record you can think of, the Burj Khalifa is a work of futuristic, sky-scraping loveliness. At 2,722 feet tall the Burj graces the Dubai skyline with a metallic cladding, based on ancient Islamic patterns that glisten day and night, but also serves to protect the interior from scorching summer temperatures. The Y-shaped construction was designed by Adrian Smith, who also gets credit for the One World Tower. At any rate, it always seems to me like a set for an awesome sci-fi movie.
Taipei 101, Taipei.
The former title-holder before the Burj sprang up, Taipei 101 stands at an impressive 1,670 feet. 101 can also boast of being five stories deep underground, too. Despite its scale, the eight canted sections, a design is inspired by Chinese pagodas, manage to be elegant while dominating the skyline. Taipei’s climate helps along the sense of drama, with the building often disappearing into low cloud like a pathway to the Gods.
Umeda Sky Building, Osaka.
A bit of a shortass compared to these others, but Umeda Sky makes my list because of its visceral height experience. Two towers of forty storeys are connected by bridges at a height of 567 feet, which isn’t huge, but visitors are invited to step off the seemingly floating escalators to an open observation deck to get a real feeling for their altitude. Yeah! That’s my kind of height trip; a full 360-degree view of the city while winds attempt to blow you and your shaking camera right off. I know which on my list I’ll be saving up the cash to visit first.