Quotable (#222)

China soaring:

In 2016 the world saw the completion of 128 skyscrapers, up from 114 in 2015, according to the US-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (it defines a skyscraper as being higher than 200 m, or 656 ft). Of those, 84 came from China, a new record for the nation. China has topped the council’s completions list every year for nearly a decade (pdf, p. 2). In 2015 it notched 68 such buildings, also a record in China at the time. […] Shenzhen, a city in southern China known for electronics manufacturing, stood out last year, completing 11 such skyscrapers. That’s more than the US and Australia combined.

(Via, and see related.)

Short Changed

Cities have been grounded, observes Robin Hanson in a down-to-earth post on the subject. Given strong evidence of increasing returns to vertical development, up to 20-stories in Shanghai (and 40 in Hong Kong), it is immediately obvious that the world’s major metropolises are far more tightly earth-bound than direct economic calculation would predict. Super-tall construction is challenging, but high-rise building to a moderate altitude is not being inhibited by any easily-identified economic or technical factors.

After running through an impressive range of possible explanation for urban stunting, Hanson reaches the conclusion:

City density, and hence city size, is mainly limited by the abilities of the conflicting elements that influence local governments to coordinate to enable taller buildings. […] Remember those futurist images of dense tall cities scraping the skies? The engineers have done their job to make it possible. It is politics that isn’t yet up to the task.

Views from the Shanghai Tower

Some stunning images from local photographer Blackhaven have been selected by James Griffiths at Shanghaiist, presenting Lujiazui as it has never been seen before. Super-tall towers are objects and platforms of spectacle. It’s probably futile to argue about which aspect of urban visual reconstruction matters more.

ADDED: From Jacob Rubin’s excellent essay on the Burj Khalifa:

Still, a building like the Burj exerts a magnetic pull, much of which derives from the prospect of its view. Such is the question posed by a tower: is it made to be looked at or out of? “Vista,” as a word, has come to have it both ways, denoting not just the view itself but the perch that affords it, as if the latter attained the status of lookout simply by purveying one. When one gazes upon the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building, this is literally what one is looking at: a view of a view, a vision of a vision, and that distinct, dread-soaked awe known to any passerby must derive, at least in part, from imagining the view from up there. Like the face of a visionary, these buildings draw much of their power from what they look upon.