March 20th, 2013
08:15 PM ET

America getting skyscraper envy as Saudi Arabia plans tallest building in the world

According to the UAE's newspaper The National, America is falling behind when it comes to the tallest buildings.

Of the top ten in the world, only the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) made the list – and it's number 9.  And in just a few short years, there won't be any American buildings on the list at all. 

In the next decade six new buildings will be added to the list, all of them in Asia and the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Tower set to open in 2018. It will be the tallest building in the world, as well as the first to pass 3000 feet. That's 564 feet taller than the current champ – the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

I've spent time in the Burj and it's an amazing structure. But it's kind of sad to think that even with all of our American exceptionalism, this country won't have a building that compares.

Because it's not just the world's tallest buildings moving east. Danny Quah, a professor at the London School of Economics, has calculated that the world's economic center – measured by looking at income averages around the world – has also shifted east, from the Transatlantic to somewhere over the Arabian Peninsula.

What's more, if current trends continue, that center will shift again to about where Singapore is in the future. But is there a connection between tallest building and strongest economy?

An economist named Andrew Lawrence is behind something called the "skyscraper index," which he says shows that the construction of the these massive buildings is a good way to predict the onset of economic changes.

Generally speaking, a skyscraper begins construction when the economy is growing. This is then followed by a sharp downturn. But once a skyscraper is finished, according to the index, the economy is climbing back.

One World Trade Center – the Freedom Tower – will be America's tallest tower when it's completed next year. So while even though Americans' confidence in our leaders and the economy continues to sink, our new tallest building seems to indicate things are looking up.

Filed under: Erin's Essay • International
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Nonya

    Unfortunately, America's lack of self confidence reflects this trend. We no longer feel like we're the best. This is all the results of the liberalism that has infected this country for far too long. We have a president who doesn't believe in American exceptionalism. If America can become energy independent, which can be done if the govt would stop trying to prevent it, the economic power shift that is moving toward these Middle Eastern countries would stop. The only reason these countries have become as as wealthy as they are, and thus building these massive skyscrapers, is due to America's stupidity in continuing to buy their oil. If America becomes energy independent, you'd see a huge economic shift back to the West and the massive skyscrapers would rise again just as they did here in the 1960's and 1970's.

    September 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Reply
  2. Joey at Purdue Univ

    I know anecdotes =/= evidence, and not sure what the ADP numbers or the skyscraper index indicates, but companies be hiring! They be hiring.

    April 3, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Reply
  3. thetruckinglife

    personally I would. Construct 4 buildings of lesser height than 1 giant monstrosity.

    March 21, 2013 at 2:43 am | Reply
  4. Joey at Purdue Univ

    Stark Tower? Avengers headquarters?

    They have a Hulk.

    March 20, 2013 at 9:02 pm | Reply

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