For many years the world's tallest structure was Toronto's CN Tower, which acted as a broadcasting tower for the TV networks that dominated at the time. It lost its place at the top to the Burj Khalifa, which is both the tallest tower and the tallest building, defined by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat as a building where "at least 50 percent of its height is occupied by usable floor area."
And then we have the new thing being built in Dubai by Emaar Properties for a World Expo being held in Dubai in 2020. Sites like Bloomberg are calling it a skyscraper, and it will be a notch taller than the Burj Khalifa. But it is not a skyscraper, which is pretty much defined as "a tall, continuously habitable building". It's...something else. According to Designboom,
The building will offer a panoramic vista across the city from ‘the pinnacle room’, a space that opens to sweeping sky views. Observation garden decks attempt to recreate the splendor of the ‘hanging gardens of babylon’ — one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Fully glazed balconies extend outward from the tower’s core, rotating outside the skin of the structure. in addition, the tower will have a luxury boutique hotel for visitors.
It is designed by Santiago Calatrava, who has always had a flair for the dramatic and the expensive (see his recent New York City project) and is the centerpiece of a new real estate development. The Chairman of Emaar gushes:
The tower in Dubai Creek harbour is our tribute to the positivity, energy and optimism that Dubai and the UAE celebrate, led by a leadership committed to all-round progress. a shining beacon of hope for the world, celebrating diversity and human achievements, this new iconic landmark further highlights the country’s ambition and futuristic vision and enhance our nation’s pride.
There are some TreeHugger types who think that vertical cities are the way of the future, that tall buildings are the most efficient way to house people, to keep land open for agriculture, to reduce our carbon footprint. But what does one say about a tower that does nothing but provide a view? That it is perhaps a waste of a billion dollars that might have been applied to something really progressive. But hey, we all need shining beacons of hope these days.