Robert's Random Ravings

Reach For The Sky

I am not an architect (perhaps I should have been), but I am a big fan of architecture. The styles of buildings that I like run the whole gamut of architecture. From Gothic to Modern; Neo-Classical to Federalist; Arts & Crafts to Frank Lloyd Wright. Frankly, there are probably few styles of building that I would say to you that I don’t like (though I am not the biggest fan of the modern style of housing that came around towards the end of the 20th century).

One particular type of building that has always fascinated me is the skyscraper. They are wonders in engineering and I often wonder what keeps them standing – why don’t they fall over? I am often amazed and awed by a beautiful building that reaches up into the sky and I think of the story in the Bible of the Tower of Babel. The people wanted to build a building that would reach the heavens. Of course, the Biblical account ends with them all suddenly speaking different languages and thus being unable to communicate with each other and finish the tower.

Fortunately, that has not been the case in the Modern World.

When I visit a city that has skyscrapers (and I have of course been to many such cities), I like to find out if the tallest of those buildings has an observatory. Many of them do, and going to these observatories usually provides an unparalleled, panoramic view of the city.

As such, I have been on top of 4 of the five tallest buildings in the US (as of the time of the 9/11 attacks):

    World Trade Center - NY

    World Trade Center - NY

  • The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center – New York. I went to the observatory at the top every time I was in New York up until the terrorists knocked them down. These towers were always a treat. On a clear day, you would be able to see from lower Manhattan into New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. The Towers provided an absolutely gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline from a perspective that is so unlike seeing the same skyline from street level.
  • Sears Tower - Chicago

    Sears Tower - Chicago

  • The Sears Tower – Chicago. This is another real treat. Located in the Southern part of the Loop, this tower also gives you a view into a number of states on a clear day, including Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. Also, there used to be a wonderful Mexican Restaurant here called Su Casa. I don’t know if it is still there. Their food was really good.
  • Empire State Building

    Empire State Building

  • The Empire State Building – New York. I never started going there until the Twin Towers were no longer an option. The view is similar to that of the Twin Towers, but in my opinion, it is not quite as nice. Now, though, it is probably the best skyscraper view of New York. (The Top of the Rock recently opened at the Rockefeller Center. I have not yet had the opportunity to go to this observation deck, so I do not yet know how it compares.)
  • John Hancock Tower - Chicago

    John Hancock Tower - Chicago

  • The John Hancock Tower – Chicago. I have seen fireworks go off underneath me from Navy Pier while at the observation deck, and I have eaten at the restaurant on the 95th floor, called, appropriately enough, the 95th. From here, you get an exquisite view of all of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan. It is my favorite observation deck in Chicago.

Chicago is a very important city in terms of the development of the skyscraper. The Chicago Architectural Foundation has several very interesting skyscraper tours, which makes sense because Chicago was basically the birthplace of the skyscraper.

The first one I would do is the Historic Skyscrapers Tour. This tour gives you a background on the development of the Skyscraper and the innovations that made them possible (such as elevators).

Then you could try the Modern Skyscrapers Tour, which shows you about later developments and styles in skyscraper construction.

They are both fascinating tours that I would highly recommend!

Of course, the United States is no longer a world leader when it comes to the tallest buildings in the world. There are cities that I want to visit just so that I can go see some of the wonders.

Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur

For example:

Skyscrapers of the World

Skyscrapers of the World

To see a list of the currently built tallest buildings, click here.

Chicago Spire

Chicago Spire


There are some pretty amazing buildings going up around the world, as well. At the site of the World Trade Center is the Freedom Tower, which is supposed to be 1776 feet tall when completed (the old towers were 1350 feet tall). In Chicago, Donald Trump is finishing up a tower which will be about 1170 feet, making it the second tallest building in Chicago. Another building going up in Chicago is the Chicago Spire (also known as the Fordham Spire). The original plan by Santiago Calatrava (who is an AMAZING architect) called for it to be 2000 feet tall, which would make it the tallest building in the US, and one of the tallest in the world. Construction has begun, but the economic downturn in the US is affecting getting the building finished. In fact, it apparently has been halted for now.

In China, several buildings are being built or are just about finished (such as the Shanghai World Financial Center in Shanghai and the International Commerce Center in Hong Kong). A mega-tower is being built in Moscow as well (called Federation Tower).

Finally, two immense projects are underway on the Arabian Peninsula. One of them is the Burj Dubai in Dubai, UAE. Noone knows for sure how tall this building will be. They want to keep it secret so someone else does not beat them out right away. For now, it is planned to be 818 meters, or over 2650 feet tall. That is just incredible.

Another project being built is in Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is called the Abraj Al Bait Towers . It is slated to be finished in 2010 and will be 595 meters tall (around 1950 feet). It will be the biggest building by mass in the world. It is located across the street from the holiest site in Islam. I am amazed that the Saudis built this in that spot. Oh well.

That is a short tour of some of the most spectacular skyscrapers in the US and the rest of the world.

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02/18/2009 - Posted by | General | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. wait is the detroit gm headquarters in there? if it isn’t it should be. It is taller than half of those buildings.

    Comment by Finalflash50 | 01/17/2010 | Reply

  2. No doubt the Ren Cen is a beautiful skyscraper, but it’s no where near as tall as the Twin Towers were. IMO there is no skyscraper as beautiful as they. (I wish Detroit had more 😦

    Comment by Teresa | 03/22/2010 | Reply

    • Funny. The Twin Towers were rarely considered to be “beautiful.” But I can’t tell you how much I miss them, even though I am not a New Yorker.

      Comment by rkurzweil | 03/22/2010 | Reply

  3. Wait never mind. I thought the Ren Cen was taller but I looked at the heights and the World Trade Centers were almost twice the height.

    Comment by Finalflash50 | 03/26/2010 | Reply


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