Friday, January 26, 2007



Someone sent me an e-mail with their 16 favourite skylines in the world. It's a subjective survey, but I thought that I would share it, and put in Vancouver for comparison.

I was looking for info. on Vancouver's building heights, and came up with this (from 2004) -
January 29, 2004
TO: Standing Committee on Planning and Environment
FROM: Director of Current Planning
SUBJECT: Proposed High Building - Height Increase from 300 ft. to 400 ft. 550 Bute
CONSIDERATION: The Director of Current Planning submits the following for consideration:
That the Development Permit Board be advised that Council would favour the proposed
increase in building height to 121.92 m (400 ft.) for the construction of a 43-storey retail/hotel/office/residential building at 550 Bute as submitted under Development Application 407110.

Different areas must have different height restrictions, or things seem to have changed quite a bit since then - The Shangri-la will top out at 197 m (646 ft). This puts us in league with some of the more famous skylines of the world vis-a-vis building heights.

The List

1. Hong Kong (Metro/Urban Population: 6.8 million)

39 buildings over 200 metres tall. It also boasts four of the 15 tallest buildings in the world. Hong Kong's skyline shows a large selection of distinct towers, with beautiful night lighting and reflection. This city exemplifies the post-modern skyscraper and skyline. Finally, the mountain backdrop makes this skyline one of the greatest on the planet.

2. Chicago, Illinois (Metro/Urban Population: 8.5 million)

Chicago is the birthplace of the modern skyscraper. When Chicago built its first steel high-rise in 1885, it was not the tallest structure in the world but the first example of a new form of engineering that would change nearly every city on earth. Chicago has 17 buildings over 200 metres tall (three of which are among the top 20 tallest buildings in the world, including the tallest in North America). Chicago has some of the finest mid-century architecture and examples of modern skyscrapers.

3. Shanghai, China (Metro/Urban Population: 13 million)

Not to be mistaken for a space station, Shanghai is China's biggest and most advanced city, Shanghai was said to be the most cosmopolitan city in the beginning of the 20th century, but lost its glory during the "Mao era". It is now quickly regaining its position as one of the biggest economic powerhouses in the world, as well as a showcase of modern architecture. In Shanghai, you will find 18 structures that are over 200 metres tall, one of which is the insanely tall 468m downtown Oriental Pearl T.V. Tower.

4. New York City (Metro/Urban Population: 21.0 million)

New York City has one of the densest and most diverse skylines, with a huge collection of buildings and building styles. Thanks to Hollywood's obsession with the city, it is also the most easily recognizable skyline in the world. New York City has an amazing 44 buildings over 200 metres - the most in the world. Home of the beautiful Art Deco Chrysler Building, the Empire State building, the Statue of Liberty and the United Nations, New York City is the financial capital of the western world. Upon the completion of the new "Freedom Tower ", it may rank higher on this list.

5. Tokyo, Japan (Metro/Urban Population: 32.0 million - wow! and 30 million pochinko parlours!)

Tokyo is the world's most populated city. Its skyline has a number of unique characteristics that set it apart from other big city skylines, among them 15 structures at over 200 metres tall (including the Tokyo Tower which changes colors every night). But because of the density and vast size of the city, every corner appears to have its own skyline. With the height restrictions and the required red lights that flash atop all mid to tall-sized buildings make the city look spectacular at night. Tokyo is filled with neon lighting and unique, contemporary architecture, and like New York City is also often portrayed in movies for its aesthetic and eye-catching cityscapes.

6. Singapore (Metro/Urban Population: 3.8 million)

One of the best (urban) planned and cleanest metropolitan cities in the world, Singapore looks like an architectural model city come to life. The buildings cannot be higher than 280 metres due to air traffic control restrictions, but that has added a tall (but not too tall) and consistent building height and space pattern that makes this skyline unique: Three buildings are exactly 280 meters tall and 5 others (8 total)stand at just over 200 metres. The buildings are mostly light-colored and there is a large expanse of greenery dotted around the city core. This South-eastern City is definitely in a league of its own.

7. Toronto (Metro/Urban Population: 5.1 million )

Toronto is a meeting place, a crossroads of many cultures and ethnicities. Toronto is downtown Canada, the biggest city in the country with a skyline to match. Toronto has 7 structures in its skyline that stand at over 200 metres, including the astonishingly tall 553 metres, CN Tower, which is often referred to as the tallest freestanding structure in the world. While mostly untrue (because there are taller TV masts in the world), the CN Tower possesses the world's highest observation deck, making this city's skyline one of the most immediately identifiable.

8. Kuala Lumpur (Metro/Urban Population: 1.5 million )

This is probably the most impressive city worldwide that has less than 2 million residents. Marvellous modern buildings reach the sky here, and while the skyline is not too dense, it does allow buildings to soar and stand out. Kuala Lumpur has three of the 25 tallest buildings worldwide, including the tallest twin buildings, the Petronas Towers (which are arguably the second and third tallest overall in the world) as well as the 420 metres Menara Kuala Lumpur Tower.

9. Shenzhen, China (Metro/Urban Population: 4.2 million)

What was a tiny fishing village on the border of Hong Kong in 1970 is now a buzzing metropolis of over four million people. With 13 buildings at over 200 metres tall, including the Shun Hing Square (the 8th tallest building in the world), Shenzhen is a marvel of lights after sunset. You can't help but ask yourself if you are in a video game or in a real city.

10. Seoul, South Korea (Metro/Urban Population: 20.8 million)

This city's skyscrapers are divided into many clusters, spread amongst the main businesses and residential districts. Most of the recent growth in Seoul's skyline, however, has been of residential towers over 60 stories high that are shooting up like blades of grass! There are 10 buildings in Seoul over 200 metres tall and much of the mid-rise to high-rise structures are lined up in a linear fashion, creating a "wall" of buildings like no other. Seoul is where the ancient Eastern world meets the modern west.

11. Sao Paolo, Brazil (Metro/Urban Population: 18.3 million)

"What building did you say they lived in?" Finding it in the largest mass of condensed apartment buildings anywhere would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Sao Paolo has a population of over 18 million people! While the buildings are not super tall (with only a single structure at over 200 metres) this skyline is nevertheless stacked. Sao Paolo has a fleet of over 500 helicopters, the second largest helicopter fleet in the world.

12. Sydney, Australia (Metro/Urban Population: 4.2 million)

Australia's showcase city, Sydney has one of the most recognizable skylines due to its world-famous harbour, often referred to as the most beautiful natural harbour in the world... The Sydney Harbour has many bays, inlets and secondary harbours. It is spanned by the monumental Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House decorates the shoreline like a white flower. The Sydney skyline is world-class with hundreds of skyscrapers in the central business district, and many more high-rise buildings in the outlying neighbourhoods. Sydney has 8 buildings over 200 metres tall.

13. Frankfurt, Germany (Metro/Urban Population: 4.1 million)

Certainly one of Europe's most interesting cities in terms of skylines, Frankfurt's home to five structures that are over 200 metres tall. These modern skyscrapers are marvels compared to those other, mostly nonexistent ones scattered across European cities. The contrast here is interesting: The City combines low-rise, high-density traditional European architecture (some of which is over 1,000 years old), with modern towers that stick out like sore thumbs, but are impressive nonetheless.

14. Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Metro/Urban Population: 1.6 million)

Is this a mirage in the Middle East? Seemingly out of nowhere emerges a city in the middle of a desert. This is Dubai, a city that produces only the best modern architecture in the world. Already home of the world's tallest all-hotel building and the tallest all-residential building in the world, AND currently proposed to build the world's tallest building, this skyline might just leap to the number 1 spot in the near future. While the skyline is not so dense, each building is a marvel all on its own. As a skyline it probably can't compete with the larger cities, however the individual buildings in this city are by far the greatest examples of modern architectural accomplishments. All seven structures in this city at over 200 metres tall were built in 1999 or later. That's how new this city is.

15. Guangzhou, China (Metro/Urban Population: 4.1 million)

Guangzhou is the Chinese name for both the province and its capital city, both of which the English called 'Canton'. This province is the closest to Hong Kong and the language spoken here (Cantonese) is the one is spoken by the thousands of Hong Kong immigrants to North America, (vs. Mandarin, the language spoken in Beijing. (Cantonese and Mandarin are as different from each other as English is from French, but the both groups can read the written Chinese characters since both use the same pictographs to represent the same concepts.)

And not to be forgotten... Wichita, Kansas


patriotz said...

Guangzhou is the Chinese name for both the province and its capital city

Actually the province is called Guangdong, which means something like "east region". "Canton" is an English corruption of "Guangdong".

There's a neighbouring province called Guangxi, "west region".

Sorry for the nitpick, great posting.

mohican said...

I pick Wichita as the best.

solipsist said...

I appreciate the clarifications patriotz. I'm always glad for them. I don't see it as nitpicking at all.

I like that Wichita skyline myself, mohican. It reminds me of the Roy Rogers(?) tune covered by David Byrne - give me land, lots of land, with the starry sky above, don't fence me in...

scoop said...

Different areas must have different height restrictions

Some good detail on the Vancouver skyline regulations and "exceptions" here.

Cool pictures. I've always liked the Chicago skyline - it conveys a real sense of strength.

solipsist said...

Thanks for the scoop scoop. I would have searched further, but I had a nightmare time (3 hours) with the html in that post, and I had to quit.

I've been more brain-dead than usual as of late.