29 of the world's most famous skyscrapers: from Dubai's Burj Khalifa to New York's Empire State Building

These are the buildings that have redefined their respective cities' skylines

The architecture landscape has gotten exponentially more creative since the world's first modern skyscraper was built in 1885. It was called the Home Insurance Building and it was located on the corner of Adams and LaSalle streets in Chicago.

Designed by engineer William Le Baron Jenney, it was a mere 42 metres tall, with all of 10 stories, but with a groundbreaking steel frame that allowed for greater height and stability than had ever been afforded in the past.

Sadly, it doesn't exist anymore – it was demolished in 1931 to make way for what is now known as the LaSalle Bank Building, a more impressive 163 metrem-tall Art Deco office block – but nothing can diminish its significance in the annals of architectural history.

After all, it paved a path for many, many more structures to come, each more innovative than the last.

Today, that building would no longer be considered a skyscraper. To deserve that moniker it is generally agreed that a property needs to have at least 40 stories – but often it will have many more.

With that in mind, here, in no particular order, we pay tribute to some of the most famous, and fantastic, skyscrapers that still loom over skylines across the world today.

1. Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE

2. Willis Tower, Chicago, US

3. Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco, US

4. Al Hamra Tower, Kuwait City, Kuwait

5. Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore

6. Evolution Tower, Moscow, Russia

7. Torre Glories, Barcelona, Spain

8. The Shard, London, UK

9. Bahrain World Trade Centre, Manama, Bahrain

10. Kingdom Centre Tower, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

11. Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan

12. Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

13. Shanghai Tower, Shanghai, China

14. Chrysler Building, New York, US

15. China Central Television Headquarters, Beijing, China

16. Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong

17. Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, Tokyo, Japan

18. Hotel & Casino Grand Lisboa, Macau

19. Turning Torso, Malmo, Sweden

20. 30 St Mary Axe, London, UK

21. Shanghai World Financial Centre, Shanghai, China

22. Istanbul Sapphire, Istanbul, Turkey

23. Lotte World Tower, Seoul, South Korea

24. Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

25. Gran Torre Santiago, Santiago, Chile

26. Burj Al Arab, Dubai, UAE

27. One World Trade Centre, New York, US

28. Empire State Building, New York, US

29. Adnoc Headquarters, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Burj Khalifa

Location: Dubai, UAE

Height: 829.8 metres

Year it opened: 2010

(FILES) A picture taken on January 3, 2010 shows an Emirati woman and her children walking past Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, in Dubai. Dubai's debt-laden group, Dubai World, said on May 20, 2010 it has reached an agreement "in principle" with most of its bank lenders to restructure some 23.5 billion dollars in debt. AFP PHOTO/KARIM SAHIB (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / FILES / AFP)
Dubai's Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. AFP

This multi-use structure, which took six years to build, needs little introduction, as for 11 years now it's been the tallest building in the world, towering over Dubai's constantly developing Downtown and Business Bay areas.

It's also starred in numerous movies, including Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

It has more than 160 stories, boasts the highest outdoor observation deck in the world, not to mention it cost about $1.5 billion to make. And those are only a few of the staggering facts and stats (like it took 22 million man hours to build) associated with this fascinating piece of architecture, which was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the firm also behind Chicago's Willis Tower and New York's One World Trade Centre.

Willis Tower

Location: Chicago, US

Height: 520 metres

Year it opened: 1973

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 26: View of Willis Tower on February 26, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Jeff Schear/Getty Images for Equity Office/AFP (Photo by Jeff Schear / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
Willis Tower in Chicago was the world's tallest building until 1998. Getty Images via AFP

Formerly known as Sears Tower, Willis Tower is an office block in Illinois that took three years to build and cost more than $175 million, but it was worth it as it was the tallest building in the world until 1998. To this day, it is the tallest property in Chicago.

Architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which is also behind Dubai's Burj Khalifa, led the design and construction, which includes welded steel frames that form vertical tubes. This unique design choice was inspired by the way cigarettes unevenly protrude from a pack, or so the story goes.

Fun fact: on a good, clear day, you can see four different states from the observation deck.

Transamerica Pyramid

Location: San Francisco, US

Height: 260 metres

Year it opened: 1972

Despite recording significant annual rent declines, San Francisco continued to figure among the 10 most expensive markets for two-bedroom apartments by rent in the US. Photo: AFP
A view of the Transamerica Pyramid building in San Francisco, California. AFP

This pyramid-shaped landmark, which features a white quartz exterior and more than 3,000 windows, sold in 2020 for $650 million – that's how valuable it is.

It was built over the course of three years to withstand Californian earthquakes, but, as with most innovative and groundbreaking pieces of architecture, there was a public outcry when plans were first unveiled over its futuristic design, which critics said belonged somewhere more like Las Vegas or Manhattan.

Today, however, it stands as a symbol of citywide pride, and was the tallest building in San Francisco until 2018.

Al Hamra Tower

Location: Kuwait City, Kuwait

Height: 412.6 metres

Year it opened: 2011

A general view taken from Kuwait City's Kipco Tower on September 25, 2016, shows the Al-Hamra (L) and the Arraya (R) towers. (Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP)
Kuwait's tallest building is Al Hamra Tower, left. AFP

Offices, a health club and a shopping mall are all housed within this sculptural building, which took six years to build and towers over all others in Kuwait.

Its design by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was inspired by the traditional robes worn across the region, and its asymmetrical form, which was a first of its kind, was introduced to maximise views over the Arabian Gulf, while minimising solar heat gain.

It cost $500 million, according to various reports, and is hailed as the tallest sculpted, and stone clad, building in the world.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Location: Singapore

Height: 207 metres

Year it opened: 2010

A general view of Marina Bay Sands hotel and resort (L) and the ArtScience Museum (R) are seen in Singapore on March 26, 2021. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)
Marina Bay Sands hotel and resort, left, and the ArtScience Museum, right, are seen in Singapore. AFP

It's not just Singaporeans that would instantly recognise the facade of this $5.7 billion resort, as the 2,561-room hotel is world-renowned and frequently tops world's most beautiful skyscraper lists.

It has not one, but three 55-storey towers, designed by architect Moshe Safdie, connected by a one-hectare roof terrace and is known for being home to the world's largest and highest infinity pool, as well as a casino, museum, a shopping mall, theatres, crystal pavilions and numerous celebrity chef restaurants – to name just a few of its attractions.

Evolution Tower

Location: Moscow, Russia

Height: 246 metres

Year it opened: 2014

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 29, 2019: The Evolution Tower of the Moskva City Moscow International Business Center. Vladimir Gerdo/TASS (Photo by Vladimir Gerdo\TASS via Getty Images)
The Evolution Tower of the Moskva City Moscow International Business Centre. Getty Images

Formerly known as Wedding Palace and City Palace, the neo-futurist Evolution Tower is not one of the world's tallest buildings – it's not even among the top 10 tallest in Moscow – but its twisted, futuristic form designed by British architect Tony Kettle means it's certainly one of the most eye-catching.

Plans for a new and groundbreaking building in the Russian city's business district were first revealed in 2004, but construction didn't actually start until 2011. Today it houses offices among its 55 floors.

Torre Glories

Location: Barcelona, Spain

Height: 144 metres

Year it opened: 2005

D9P52C Torre Agbar modern tower office building in Glories, Barcelona, Spain
Torre Glories may only be 38 floors, but it's a distinctive presence on Barcelona's skyline. Alamy Stock Photo

While Torre Glories, formerly known as Torre Agbar or Agbar Tower, only has 38 stories, it has famously redefined the Barcelona skyline and so qualifies for this list.

It took six years to build and was designed by world-renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, also behind Louvre Abu Dhabi, and marks the entrance to the Poblenou neighbourhood.

Its smooth, cylindrical shape recalls Norman Foster's 30 St Mary Axe in London (also on this list) and, according to Jean Nouvel, is supposed to resemble a geyser bursting through the ground, as the shimmering surface evokes water.

The Shard

Location: London, UK

Height: 306 metres

Year it opened: 2012

A police boat patrols the River Thames, near The Shard in London on March 30, 2020, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. - Life in locked-down Britain may not return to normal for six months or longer as it battles the coronavirus outbreak, a top health official warned on Sunday, as the death toll reached passed 1,200. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)
London's The Shard is a great example of neo-futurism in architecture. AFP

Formerly known as London Bridge Tower, the Shard, which is partly owned by Qatar, is a 72-storey neo-futurist skyscraper that's become one of the most recognisable buildings on the English capital's skyline and the tallest building in the UK.

It was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, who's also behind the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and took three years to build, costing in the vicinity of £1.2bn ($1.6bn).

It's home to offices, restaurants, bars, retails shops and a luxury Shangri-La hotel.

Bahrain World Trade Centre

Location: Manama, Bahrain

Height: 240 metres

Year it opened: 2008

A picture taken on December 3, 2020, shows the world trade centre in the Bahraini capital Manama. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP)
Bahrain's World Trade Centre is based in the capital of Manama. AFP

The sail-shaped towers, which cost $150m to create, have soared over Bahrain's sparse skyline for more than a decade.

Designed by Atkins, the architectural firm behind Dubai's Burj Al Arab, it was the first skyscraper in the world to integrate wind turbines and has even won awards for sustainability.

The two 50-storey buildings are connected by three sky bridges. Inside, there are offices, restaurants, a mall and hotel.

It's not the tallest building in Bahrain – that accolade belongs to the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay – but it is arguably the most famous.

Kingdom Centre Tower

Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Height: 302.3 metres

Year it opened: 2002

[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] Official full name Kingdom Business and Shopping Centre in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. At 302 m it is the second tallest building in the country and the world's third tallet building with a hole.
The building's official full name is the Kingdom Business and Shopping Centre in Riyadh. Getty Images

While the Kingdom Centre Tower isn't the tallest building in Saudi Arabia – it's not even the tallest in Riyadh – it is the world's third-tallest building with a hole in it.

It was designed by US architecture firm Ellerbe Becket, which has since been bought by Aecom, alongside Saudi company Omrania and Associates. It houses offices, luxury apartments and a Four Seasons hotel.

One of its biggest attractions, however, is the Sky Bridge, located on the 99th floor, 300 metres above the Saudi capital. Here, you can take in some dizzying views of the city.

Taipei 101

Location: Taipei, Taiwan

Height: 508 metres

Year it opened: 2004

People gather on a viewing deck at Elephant Mountain before Taipei 101 Tower (C) and Nan Shan Tower (centre R) in Taipei on July 14, 2018. (Photo by Chris STOWERS / AFP)
People gather on a viewing deck at Elephant Mountain before Taipei 101 Tower, centre. AFP

Designed to resemble a bamboo stalk, the Taipei 101, formerly known as the Taipei Financial Centre, towers over the Taiwanese city as the country's tallest building, and was the world's tallest until 2009.

It houses a shopping mall, office space and outdoor and indoor observatories on the 91st and 101st floors, respectively.

One of its most intriguing attractions, besides the striking postmodern architecture, is the pressure-controlled elevators that move at 60 kilometres per hour, or 1,010 metres per minute, taking 37 seconds to soar up 89 floors.

Petronas Twin Towers

Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Height: 451.9 metres

Year it opened: 1998

To go with Ukraine-Russia-crisis-aviation-Malaysia-tourism,FOCUS by Bhavan Jaipragas Tourists pose at the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur on July 23, 2014. An unprecedented second major aviation disaster in four months could further associate Malaysia with calamity in the eyes of travellers, observers warn, putting the tropical destination's vital tourism sector at risk. AFP PHOTO/ MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP)
The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur were the tallest buildings in the world until 2004. AFP

A list about famous buildings couldn't miss these well known twin skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur, which for six years were the tallest in the world, until 2004, and have made appearances in blockbusters, from Bollywood's Don: The Chase Begins Again to Hollywood's Entrapment.

While they've now dropped to 17th tallest globally, they're still the pinnacle of Malaysia's capital.

A two-storey skybridge links the two towers, which are sheathed in stainless steel and glass, and cost $1.6bn to make, according to various reports.

Shanghai Tower

Location: Shanghai, China

Height: 632 metres

Year it opened: 2015

epa06793921 Shanghai Tower in Pudong area, Shanghai, China, 19 April 2018. The Shanghai Tower is 632 meters tall and has 128 floors. It is the tallest building in China and the world's second tallest building. The exterior of the building resembles a snake as it spirals upwards. The sky is the limit when it comes to tall buildings, which has sparked a worldwide race between nations to construct ever higher. EPA-EFE/ROMAN PILIPEY
Shanghai Tower in the Pudong area of Shanghai, China. EPA

Subtly twisting its way into the clouds above Shanghai's glistening skyline is this 128-storey tower that reportedly cost $2.4bn. It is the second tallest building on the planet – after Dubai's Burj Khalifa – and has also claimed to be the world's greenest skyscraper.

It has a double-glass facade, which Gensler, the architecture firm behind the design, has said would reduce the building's carbon footprint by 34,000 tonnes per year, according to the Financial Times.

Despite its impressive credentials, the tower has famously faced maintenance issues and low occupancy rates.

Chrysler Building

Location: New York, US

Height: 318.9 metres

Year it opened: 1930

The Chrysler Building is seen in Midtown Manhattan on January 9, 2019 in New York. - The Chrysler Building, at Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street, a key part of the New York City skyline for nearly 90 years, is up for sale. (Photo by Don EMMERT / AFP)
The Chrysler Building, at Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street, has been a key part of the New York City skyline for more than 90 years. AFP

New York is home to many skyscrapers worthy of its own separate list, including the Empire State Building and One World Trade Centre, but this 1930s Art Deco tower is easily one of its most recognisable, having been seen in numerous movies over the years (although not as the setting, which has prompted architect James Sander to joke in the past that it should win the award for "Best Supporting Skyscraper").

Back in its heyday, between 1930 and 1931, it was actually the world's tallest building, and cost $20m to make (a giant sum back then).

Today, it's only New York's 10th tallest, but still stands as a significant cultural landmark, having been added to America's National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s.

China Central Television Headquarters

Location: Beijing, China

Height: 237.5 metres

Year it opened: 2013

The CCTV tower in the central business district is pictured in Beijing on April 4, 2019. - China has unveiled tens of billions of dollars worth of tax and fee cuts as part of a drive to kickstart the stuttering economy, extending pledges worth $300 billion announced last month. With growth at a near three-decade low and the economy struggling under the weight of the US trade row and a soft global outlook, leaders are looking to grease the cogs by getting the country's vast army of consumers to start spending. (Photo by FRED DUFOUR / AFP)
The CCTV tower in the central business district is pictured in Beijing. AFP

While this 51-storey "anti-skyscraper", which features two high-rise towers linked at the top and bottom to form a loop, in the Beijing Central Business District is not very tall, its striking architecture is what makes it stand out in the bustling Chinese capital city.

Its long path to fruition is also a story worth telling, as groundbreaking took place in 2004, but, because of a fire that engulfed the nearby Television Cultural Centre in 2009, construction was delayed and it wasn't officially inaugurated until four years later.

This resulted in estimated damages of $23.4m, according to Design Build, while total construction cost is put at about $1.2bn.

Bank of China Tower

Location: Hong Kong

Height: 367 metres

Year it opened: 1990

The Bank of China Tower, right, stands in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. Bank of China Ltd., the nation's fourth-largest lender, reported a 0.7 percent increase in 2015 profit as fee and commission income grew. Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Bank of China Tower, right, stands in Hong Kong. Getty Images

Hong Kong's skyline is recognisable the world over, but among all of its looming buildings jostling for space one of the most standout skyscrapers is the Bank of China Tower.

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Chinese-American architect I M Pei, who is also behind Qatar's Museum of Islamic Art and Paris's Louvre Pyramid, the triangular glass building was for a few years the tallest building in the world outside the US.

Its asymmetrical design extends to the interiors, too, as floors end in points and angles, facing windows on all sides offering glorious views in all directions.

Famously, it starred in Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Height: 203.7 metres

Year it opened: 2008

TOKYO, JAPAN - 2008/11/06: Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower - Shinjuku is one of several cities within the city of Tokyo. It is a major commercial and administrative center, housing the busiest train station in the world - Shinjuku Station. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the administration center for the government of Tokyo or "tochomae" is located here. Surrounding Shinjuku Station are department stores, specialist electronic and camera shops, cinemas, restaurants and bars as well as many international hotels.. (Photo by John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower in Shinjuku. Getty Images

Even in Shinjuku's skyscraper business district, this tower stands out. Home to three schools, teaching fashion, IT and medical services, the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower boasts a cocoon-inspired design that was conceptualised by Tange Associates, founded by prolific Japanese architect Kenzo Tange.

It was born out of a contest, whereby architects were asked to submit proposals for the building's design with only one condition: that it was not rectangular. Among 50 professionals and more than 150 submissions, the Tange team won for its elliptical-shaped tower wrapped in a cross-linked network of diagonal lines.

Its shape is said to symbolise a place that nurtures students.

Hotel & Casino Grand Lisboa

Location: Macau

Height: 260 metres

Year it opened: 2007

Visitors admire the new Grand Lisboa hotel and casino (R) ahead of the casino's official opening in Macau, 11 February 2007. Billionaire tycoon Stanley Ho, who for 40 years held a monopoly on gambling in the southern Chinese territory and has seen his market share of the business slide with the opening since 2004 of rival Las Vegas-style casinos, launched his comeback campaign in Macau by opening a huge casino 11 February he hopes will bring punters back to his once-dominant gaming halls. AFP PHOTO/Samantha SIN (Photo by SAMANTHA SIN / AFP)
Visitors admire the Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino, right, ahead of the casino's official opening in Macau in February 2007. AFP

Most of the skyscrapers on this list are office towers and / or residential blocks, but this hotel and casino is worthy of a spot thanks to its incredibly unique design.

Conceived by Hong Kong architects Dennis Lau and Ng Chun Man, the 58-floor hotel houses 400 rooms, eight restaurants and hundreds of slot machines.

Perhaps its crowning glory, however, besides the unique lotus flower-shaped architecture, is The Star of Stanley Ho, a 218.08-carat, 43.62-gram cushion-shaped diamond that is the largest in the world and is on permanent display in the hotel lobby.

Turning Torso

Location: Malmo, Sweden

Height: 190 metres

Year it opened: 2005

Lightning strikes the 190 m (623 ft)-high Turning Torso building in Malmo early morning on June 7, 2011. As the unseasonally hot weather was replaced by cooler winds, heavy rain and thunderstorms struck Sweden's South-west coast. AFP PHOTO / SCANPIX - JOHAN NILSSON (Photo by JOHAN NILSSON / SCANPIX SWEDEN / AFP)
The Turning Torso building in Malmo, Sweden. AFP

Not only is this neo-futurist residential skyscraper the tallest building in Scandinavia, but it was also the world's first "twisting" tower.

Designed by Spanish architect, engineer and sculptor Santiago Calatrava, the Turning Torso was the highest residential building in the EU, and the second tallest in Europe, when it opened.

The inspiration for the design was based on one of Calatrava's sculptures, which was made entirely of white marble and comprised of seven cubes set around a steel support to produce a spiralling structural effect.

30 St Mary Axe

Location: London, UK

Height: 179.8 metres

Year it opened: 2004

Swiss R.E. building, the Gherkin, London, England. (Photo by: Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The Gherkin, or 30 St Mary Axe, in London. Getty Images

Known colloquially as The Gherkin and formerly known as the Swiss Re Building, 30 St Mary Axe is a 41-storey office tower that cost £138m to make and is home to eateries, a lounge and a famous viewing platform.

Its circular design, conceived and created by Norman Foster and Arup Group, widens and then tapers towards the top.

It may not be the tallest in the city by a long shot, nor does it break any records, but it is most certainly one of the most recognisable landmarks on London's skyline.

Shanghai World Financial Centre

Location: Shanghai, China

Height: 494.3 metres

Year it opened: 2008

The Shanghai World Financial Centre and the city's Lujiazui Financial District. A $10,000 rental payment in China's commercial hub offers 3,534 sq ft of space. AFP
Shanghai World Financial Center and the skyline of the Lujiazui Financial District in Pudong. AFP

This super-tall neo-futurist multi-use skyscraper is among the top 15 tallest buildings in the world and among the top 10 in China. It reportedly cost more than $1 billion to make.

Located in the Pudong district of Shanghai, the tower was designed by US architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and has a whopping 101 stories, housing offices, retail outlets, observation decks and a Park Hyatt Shanghai that was, at one time, the highest hotel in the world, as it occupies the 79th to 93rd floors.

It's shaped like a square prism, a symbol used in ancient China to depict the earth, and intersected by two arcs that represent the heavens, according to the architects. A square sky portal at the top of the tower was designed to lend balance to the structure, and provide a symbolic link between the heavens and the earth.

Istanbul Sapphire

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

Height: 261 metres

Year it opened: 2010

TURKEY - APRIL 03: Levent, financial business district - skyscraper Soyak Tower Center, Istanbul Sapphire Tower shopping center Istanbul, Turkey (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Istanbul Sapphire Tower in Turkey. Getty Images

Turkish firm Tabanlioglu Architects is behind this curved tower that offers some of the best views of Turkey's capital, as it's among the city's tallest buildings (formerly its tallest until 2016).

The group also worked on major projects such as the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art and Ataturk International Airport.

Inside, there are a number of entertainment options, including a cinema, shops, restaurants and an observation terrace, with a 4D helicopter simulation ride called Skyride that takes you on a journey over the city, from the Bosphorus to Hagia Sophia.

Lotte World Tower

Location: Seoul, South Korea

Height: 555.7 metres

Year it opened: 2017

The Lotte Corp. World Tower, right, and other buildings stand illuminated at dawn in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. South Korea's stocks and currency fell after President Donald Trump warned North Korea that if it "does anything" to the U.S. or its allies "things will happen to them like they never thought possible." Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Lotte Corp. World Tower is the tallest building in South Korea. Getty Images

The tallest building in South Korea, and the fifth-tallest in the world, welcomes about 13 million people a year (based on pre-coronavirus statistics), boasts 42,000 glass windows and its 123 floors home a mix of offices, residences, a hotel, observation deck and rooftop cafe.

The design was conceived by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and melds a modern aesthetic with forms inspired by traditional Korean arts, including ceramics, porcelain and calligraphy.

Sustainable design strategies were also incorporated, such as photo-voltaic panels, wind turbines, external shading devices and water-harvesting systems.

Ryugyong Hotel

Location: Pyongyang, North Korea

Height: 330 metres

Year it opened: TBC

People wearing face masks walk across a street before the Ryugyong hotel (back C) on the occasion of the 108th birthday of late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, known as the 'Day of the Sun', in Pyongyang on April 15, 2020. (Photo by KIM Won Jin / AFP)
The Ryugyong Hotel is the tallest unoccupied building in the world. AFP

This 105-storey property, which is unusually made of reinforced concrete, holds the Guinness World Record for being the tallest unoccupied building in the world.

Nicknamed the "Hotel of Doom", the pyramid-shaped skyscraper originally broke ground in 1987, and was supposed to open two years later with about 3,000 rooms and five revolving restaurants.

But it never did open, despite its exteriors being finished and it costing an estimated $750 million.

Construction has stopped and started over the years. In 1992, for example, as North Korea experienced an economic crisis, it was abandoned without windows or interiors. In 2011, however, the exteriors were completed and it was clad with metal and glass, then in 2018 LED lights were fitted to turn it into a nighttime display, indicating there are possibly still plans to open the building yet.

Gran Torre Santiago

Location: Santiago, Chile

Height: 300 metres

Year it opened: 2013

Santiago and Gran Torre Central, seen from San Cristobal Hill, Cerro San Cristobal, Barrio Bellavista, Bellavista Neighborhood, Santiago, Chile, South America. (Photo by: Matthew Williams-Ellis/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Gran Torre Santiago seen from San Cristobal Hill. Getty Images

The Gran Torre Santiago, formerly known as Torre Gran Costanera, part of the Costanera complex, is the tallest skyscraper in South America.

Designed by Argentine Cesar Pelli, who is also behind Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Towers, the 64-storey, glass-covered office building is also home to the highest observatory in Latin America, offering 360° views of Chile's capital city.

It was specifically designed to withstand earthquakes and, before it opened, it held out well during the severe earthquake of 2010 that devastated much of central and southern Chile.

Burj Al Arab

Location: Dubai, UAE

Height: 321 metres

Year it opened: 1999

This picture taken on July 8, 2020 shows an aerial view of the Burj al-Arab hotel in the Gulf emirate of Dubai, during a government-organised helicopter tour. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP)
An aerial view of Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai. AFP

While this sail-shaped hotel may not immediately spring to mind when thinking of famous skyscrapers, it is the tallest all-suite hotel in the world, one of the most recognisable buildings in the Middle East, and only 60 metres shorter than the Empire State Building, so it deserves a place on this list.

It is often wrongly referred to as a "seven-star" hotel (those don't exist), however the five-star, luxe property that's gilded with 24-carat interiors often welcomes a guest list of glamorous VIPs and celebrities from across the world. This includes the likes of Justin Bieber, Roger Federer and Gigi and Bella Hadid.

The Burj Al Arab is also home to a few Guinness World Records, such as the most expensive cocktail Dh27,321 ($7,439) and for creating the world's largest tin of caviar (17 kilograms of Empress caviar). It's also home to the largest Swarovski crystal chandelier, with its 21,000 crystals, worth Dh1.3m.

One World Trade Centre

Location: New York, US

Height: 546.2 metres

Year it opened: 2014

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 05: A view of the One World Trade Center building on March 05, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
A view of the One World Trade Centre building in 2021. Getty Images

This building, which is also known as Freedom Tower, has many claims to fame. For a start, it's the tallest building America and the Western Hemisphere, and the sixth-tallest in the world.

It was also designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who were behind Dubai's Burj Khalifa and Chicago's Willis Tower.

Most importantly, it is the main tower of the rebuilt World Trade Centre complex in Lower Manhattan, a mostly completed group of buildings that replace the original seven on the same site that were destroyed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

It took $4 billion and eight years to build, but it's now home to offices and a three-storey observation deck.

Empire State Building

Location: New York, US

Height: 443.2 metres

Year it opened: 1931

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 04: The Empire State Building towers above other largely empty office buildings on March 04, 2021 in New York City. According to Colliers International, in January the office available rate in Manhattan rose to 14.9%, which is the highest level on record dating back to 2000. Some companies are slowly asking employees to return to the office while other's are waiting for more New Yorkers to receive the vaccine for Covid-19. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
The Empire State Building has appeared in hundreds of movies, TV shows and artworks. AFP

Even though it's only the sixth-tallest building in New York, it's arguably the most famous skyscraper in the city, having been referenced in hundreds of artworks, TV shows and movies, from King Kong to Sleepless in Seattle and Elf.

For 40 years, the steel-framed, 103-storey structure was the tallest building in the world, until the first World Trade Centre tower came along, and remains to this day one of the best examples of Modernist Art Deco design.

Astoundingly, it only took 410 days to build with 3,400 men working on it each day, as the race was on to create the world's tallest tower. It took the crown from the Chrysler building, which had claimed the title just two years earlier.

Adnoc Headquarters

Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE

Height: 342 metres

Year it opened: 2014

FILE PHOTO: A general view of ADNOC headquarters in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Christopher Pike/File Photo
A general view of Adnoc headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Reuters

Dubai might be most globally renowned for its skyscrapers, but that doesn't mean the UAE's capital doesn't have a few architectural gems of its own. The 75-storey corporate headquarters of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, in particular, stands out for its design and commitment to sustainable engineering technologies, as well as how its sleek architecture transformed the emirate's skyline.

Architects HOK were behind the design, which incorporates a double skin facade. The north side of the tower is fully glazed, offering stunning views of the Arabian Gulf, while the south side, where the sunlight pours in more strongly, incorporates fritted glass and sun shades.

"The elegant, minimalistic design of the building expresses stability, strength and seriousness of purpose," reads a statement by HOK.

Most famously, the eye-catching structure starred in Fast and Furious 7, alongside Emirates Palace, Al Ain city and Jumeirah Etihad Towers.

Updated: April 25, 2021 12:12 PM

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