Page B1.1 . 02 March 2005                     
ArchitectureWeek - Building Department
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Taiwan On Top

by Ian Morley

The official opening of the Taipei 101 Tower in December 2004, makes it for now the world's tallest building. In the 20th century, competition for this title was largely waged in Chicago and New York, but it has recently migrated to Asia.

Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, and now Taipei, Taiwan, all have modern mega-structures, and more are planned in India and China. So why are Asian countries building so high just when the United States and Europe are backing off from the competition?

The many answers to this question include pride, the explicit display of national development, prosperity, ambition, and the eagerness to create new national landmarks. Of importance too is the hope that the prestige will stimulate both domestic and foreign attention, putting less developed capitalist nations firmly into the international limelight.

Formed by Traditional Values

Furthermore, there's a difference in cultural perception between Westerners, who may respect the sheer scale of tall buildings, and Asians, for whom tall buildings symbolize the future and the notion of climbing to see further. Super-structures thus often have a symbolic value in Asia that may extend beyond commercial sense.

The 1,667-foot- (508-meter-) high 101 Tower, for instance, is built in an economic climate with relatively slow corporate spending. And leasing space in the tower will be many times more expensive than in other parts of the city where empty space is abundant. Given present economic risks and the memory of attacks in New York, are multinational companies eager to move into tall towers?   >>>

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ArchWeek Image

The Taipei 101 Tower in its urban context, as seen from the top of the ShinKong Tower, Taipei's second largest building.
Photo: Ian Morley

ArchWeek Image

Taipei 101 Tower, the world's tallest building, by C.Y. Lee and Partners.
Photo: Ian Morley


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