A history of the tallest buildings in the world

For centuries and right up until 1901, the tallest buildings in the world were always either a church or cathedral.

Going right back to 1200, Britain held the distinction for the tallest buildings in the world, with the “old” St Paul’s Cathedral in London holding the title with a spire of 149 metres. The record was relinquished to Lincoln Cathedral in 1300, when the spire of the new great church measured in at just short of 160 metres. All these measurements were open to debate and many disputed the accurate height of these magnificent buidlings.

The central spire collapsed in 1549 and the title was lost to various European cities including Stralsund, Strasbourg, Rouen and ultimately  Ulm, which held the title until 1901.

From 1901, the title for world’s tallest building was always held by secular buildings and for almost the whole century was a building in the USA.

Philadelphia City Hall was the tallest habitable building in the world from 1901 to 1908 and then the trophy passed to New York with buildings such as the Singer Building, the Metropolitan Life Tower, the Woolworth Building and the Chrysler Building.

In 1931, perhaps the most well known skyscraper in the world, The Empire State Building, took the title at 381 metres and 102 floors. In the years since, the iconic building has slipped to number 22 in the world.

The USA nearly held the record for the whole of the 20th century, but lost the crown to The Petronas Towers, also known as the Petronas Twin Towers which are twin skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It held the record for 6 years until 2004 at 451 metres.

Taipei 101, formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Centre, is a landmark skyscraper located in Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan. It has 101 floors and stands a magnificent 509 metres tall. It held the record from 2004 until it was eclipsed in 2010 by the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, which reached a massive 829 metres and has an almost unbelievable 163 floors!

As long as there is an insatiable desire to build at height and with our rich heritage of amazing buildings it will mean that the craft of being a steeplejack will remain in demand. We specialise in historic buildings, monuments and churches and although we have much experience at working a height, perhaps the 829 metres of the world’s tallest building might be one step too far up the ladder!



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