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Eleven supertall skyscrapers that demonstrate the “human aspiration to go higher”

Eleven supertall skyscrapers that demonstrate the “human aspiration to go higher”



Supertall skyscrapers have changed the way that we think about cities, says author of the book “Supertall”, Stefan Al. He highlights 11 tall buildings that have had a major impact over the past decade.


The tension surrounding tall buildings goes back as far as the Eiffel Tower and even back to the ancient Egyptians, explained Al.


“There’s that contrast between this human aspiration to go higher and same time there’s a rejection of novelty,” he told Dezeen, referencing the history of tall buildings. “When the Empire State Building was built in New York, also it kind of stuck out what stood out like a sore thumb, and it wasn’t all praise.”


Supertalls “probably a good thing for the skyline”

Al believes that the intersection of changing zoning laws and ever-expanding populations make supertalls inevitable and that they are necessary to deal with growing populations.


The diversity of designs currently being created can also positively contributes to cities, he said. “Because we can keep our cities more compact, we can reduce the amount of land that we consume, we can spend more resources and [use] relatively smaller units of land,” he said.


“There’s more diversity now than there was before”

In New York, Al is confident that regulations like Law 97, which penalizes buildings with high carbon emissions, and the re-cladding of older skyscrapers is contributing to changing building culture in the city.


Commenting on the recent super skinny skyscrapers in Manhattan, Al said that the right of use allows New York’s skyline to be constructed without community input, making it different from many of the cities on the list. “Should New York change that system?” he asked “That’s a good question because it also has some benefits that it gives transparency to property owners and what they can build.”


“But if you just look at the aesthetics of the towers, you can really see that there’s more diversity now than there was before,” Al continued.


However, Al did acknowledge that the supertall skyscrapers should be critiqued, and that public debate is probably the best mechanism for managing the tension surrounding them.


“For some of those critics that recognize that [New York City] has a lot of issues and these towers represent inequities that exist,” he said. “If you look at London, for instance, because there’s so much public debate around these buildings, and because the public actually has a say, this can really make or break the development or planning of a certain project.”


“So it’s interesting, as architects, to understand the culture of a place and the publicness of a particular building, and we need to make sure that people will also embrace the symbol that will represent,” he continued.


These are the Al’s 11 supertalls that have changed the way we think about skyscrapers:


  • 111 West 57th Street, New York, USA by SHoP Architects (2022)
  • Hanking Center, Shenzhen, China by Morphosis Architects (2021)
  • Regis Chigago, USA by Studio Gang (2020)
  • Raffles City, Chogqing, China by Moshe Safdie (2020)
  • Comcast Technology Center, Philadelphia, USA by Foster + Partners (2019)
  • MahaNakhon, Bangkok, Thailand bu OMA (2016)
  • 432 Park Avenue, New York, USA by Rafael Viñoly (2015)
  • Shanghai Tower, Shanghai, China by Genlser (2015)
  • The Shard, London, UK, by Renzo Piano (2012)
  • Canton Tower, Guangzhou, China by Information Based Architecture (2010).
  • Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE, by SOM (2010).



By Ben Dreith, on Dezeen, June 2022.