Updated April 15th, 2016
Construction is well under way on the soon-to-be-tallest building in the world: Jeddah Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, will stand at least 3,280 feet tall, and was designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture of Chicago. It is part of the larger development, Jeddah Economic City, and will be the first structure in the world to reach the one-kilometer-high mark (the original design was to be one-mile-high (1.6 km), but the geology of the area was not suitable for that height).
The project comes with a (literally) high-minded pedigree: Adrian Smith designed Burj Khalifa while at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. And like the Burj Khalifa, the final height of the project is undisclosed. This recalls the height wars in New York City in the last century, when the top of the Chrysler Building was kept hidden until its final debut, in order to beat out the Manhattan Trust Building.
Height wars aside, we've gathered some top pieces of trivia that illustrate why the Jeddah Tower is truly awe-inspiring, and more than just a big building:
1. The structure, formerly known as the Kingdom Tower, will be home to the world’s highest observatory. It will also have a separate, 98-foot-diameter outdoor balcony, which was originally intended to be a helipad.
2. The building is so big they are unable to show it realistically in one rendering. Only elevations and birds-eye views can contain the entire project. Imagine those construction drawings...
3. The foundation piles are about as large as a small room at 10 feet in diameter, and can reach up to 360 feet in length.
4. Its shape is functional. The narrowing silhouette has to fight wind as well as gravity, so the three-sided shard is designed to be aerodynamic. The taper also helps maximize usable/rentable area. It offsets the large core size on the lower floors by widening the base, while the shape also narrows the core overall, making it less space-consuming at the top.
5. Its form is interesting for a tower of its size. The "three petal" plan allows separate extrusions to nudge against one another, while the profile is inspired by folded fronds of young desert plant growth. Gill-like indentations add another scale of visual intrigue.
6. It's on a plinth! But joking aside, the building does meet the ground in a nuanced, thoughtful way. Transportation routes crisscross around it, and the plinth melds it with its urban surroundings.
7. It has 59 elevators and 12 escalators, and five of these elevators will be double decker. The lifts will not reach the speeds of normal elevators, as the change in air pressure at those altitudes would cause nausea. Three sky lobbies will prevent any one elevator from having to go all the way to the top, eliminating the need for excessively huge cables.
8. It has high-tech features. A high-performance exterior wall system, including low-conductivity glass, will minimize energy consumption by reducing thermal loads.
9. There are super-cool patios all along its three sides. Each side features a series of shaded notches where outdoor terraces offer extreme views of Jeddah and the Red Sea.
10. The massive structure will contain 80,000 tons of steel. Parts of the core will contain concrete that is several meters thick.