We are entering a new era of construction. Much like the space race of the 1960s, Asia and the Middle East are now competing to create the world’s tallest building. In 2018 a new milestone in skyscraper design will be reached as the Jeddah Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia will finally be completed. This magnificent building will stand at an approximate height of 1,000 metres (the exact height is yet to be determined), span 252 floors, and contain over 80,000 tonnes of steel. It will be the tallest building in the world, taking the title from the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
The Jeddah Economic City
The Jeddah Kingdom Tower will cost approximately $1.2 billion (although figures significantly vary) to construct and will be a part of the $20 billion Kingdom City development. The project creator, Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, is currently the wealthiest man in the Middle East and chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company. It is his vision to create an economically prosperous, gentrified city to enhance the region’s global status and provide jobs for many years to come.
When complete, the city will contain a mixture of residential developments, hotels and offices. The Kingdom Tower itself will be home to a Four Seasons hotel, serviced apartments, office spaces, luxury condominiums and a commercial shopping centre.
The Kingdom Tower will boast the world’s highest observation deck at 630 metres. In the early designs this part of the building was proposed to be a helicopter pad, but was too high for helicopters to safely land during high winds. It has now been redesigned and will even feature glass flooring.
Other features include a complex elevator system made up of 59 lifts (five of which will be double decker). They will even have to adjust their speed along the way to prevent passengers from suffering from altitude sickness. Only one elevator will be able to reach the top of the building.
Construction and Design
The original design was proposed to be one mile high; however, results from soil testing concluded that the ground would not support the structure. Even with the significant downscale, it will exceed the current record holder by 180 metres – the size of London’s St Mary Axe (aka The Gherkin). The unique Y-shaped cross section, separated by 120 degrees is designed to combat the wind and keep the structure stable.
In its entirety, the city will take approximately 10 years to build. The Kingdom Tower piling was finished in December 2013 and above ground construction began in 2014. The estimated date of completion is currently 2018; however, some media sources believe it could take years longer. At present (May 2016) it stands at just over 10 percent of its final height with 32 floors.
The Kingdom Tower has its critics. Many are calling it a trophy tower and simply don’t understand the need to create such a tall structure, believing it to be socially isolating for the under-privileged. Some praise the ambitious project as an economically valuable endeavour that will help the nation prosper. Either way, nobody can deny that it is a phenomenal feat of engineering that really is pushing the boundaries of international architecture.