As much as I try to keep these writings to a linear narrative of our journeys, there are times I feel obliged to divulge straight facts as I see them. On our trip to Kuala Lumpur, we were confronted with the proclamation that the Petronas Towers are the ‘tallest buildings on the planet’ at 452 meters. Being a proud Canadian, and one who was born in Toronto, I feel obliged to point out that the CN Tower has long held the record as the world’s tallest free standing structure, towering at 553m.
If you Google ‘worlds tallest building’, you will notice that the CN Tower is quite often absent from any lists you might dig up. At the CN Tower itself, they will inform you of the distinction between building and structure. A structure means any human-made vertical object. There are several structures taller than the CN tower, but they all use wires for support. The CN Tower is the tallest without the use of any support, taller than any buildings that make a claim to fame.
A building generally refers to a structure with functional floors i.e. an office building etc. The intergovernmental body which regulates such things (yes, there is one) states that the top can be measured by: the top of the roof, the top occupied floor, the top of a spire or pinnacle, or the top of an antenna.
When first built, the Petronas towers held the record for the top of the spire, although not in the other categories. In 2003, the completion of the Taipei 101 tower confirmed it as the tallest in all but the antennae category, at 509 m. The Sears Tower in Chicago, at 442 m reigns in the antennae category.
Strangely, in Kuala Lumpur, they still consider the Petronas towers the tallest buildings in the world. Perhaps no one told them, or perhaps they consider the spire on Petronas to be valid, while the spire on Taipei 101 irrelevant.
I don’t know the reasoning behind this myself, but it was all going to be irrelevant very soon. In Dubai, they were on the brink of finishing the construction of the Burj Dubai, a building which was planned to go over the 800 m mark. That should settle things for a while, at least, and save the world precious time on debate.