PHABRIK Magazine

World’s Tallest Building Unveiled

By João Paulo Nunes

September 2011

Chicago architecture firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill (AS+GG) have released the first images for the Kingdom Tower, set to be the world’s tallest building. At over 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) and a total construction area of 530,000 square meters (5.7 million square feet), the Kingdom Tower will be the centre piece and first construction phase of the Kingdom City development on a 5.3 million-square-meter site in north Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The tower’s height will be at least 173 meters (568 feet) taller than the world’s current tallest building, Dubai’s 828-meter-tall Burj Khalifa, which was designed by Adrian Smith while at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Kingdom Tower will feature a Four Seasons hotel, office space, luxury apartments and the world’s highest observatory. Design development of the tower is under way, with construction expected to begin imminently. Foundation drawings are complete and the piling for the tower is currently being tendered. The tower will cost approximately $1.2 billion to construct, while the cost of the entire Kingdom City project is anticipated to be $20 billion. In addition to its status as an architectural landmark and economic symbol, the Kingdom Tower was conceived to have cultural significance. The tower is envisioned as a new marker of Jeddah’s historic importance as the traditional gateway to the holy city of Mecca. To this end, the design of the southeast leg of the Kingdom Tower’s tripedal base is on a direct line with the Ka’ba in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site. Architect Gordon Gill has described the streamlined form of the tower as being inspired by the folded fronds of young desert plant growth: “The way the fronds sprout upward from the ground as a single form, then start separating from each other at the top, is an analogy of new growth fused with technology.” The three-petal footprint is also believed to be ideal for residential units, and the tapering wings are expected to produce an aerodynamic shape that helps reduce structural loading due to wind vortex shedding.

The immense height of the Kingdom Tower will require one of the world’s most sophisticated elevator systems. The complex will contain 59 elevators, including 54 single-deck and five double-deck elevators, along with 12 escalators. Elevators serving the observatory will travel at a rate of 10 meters per second in both directions. Another feature of the design is a sky terrace, roughly 30 meters (98 feet) in diameter, at level 157.

AS+GG also designed the master plan for the 23-hectare Kingdom Tower Waterfront District, which surrounds the tower and which will include residential and commercial buildings, a shopping mall, outdoor spaces and other amenities.

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