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Special Report

Skyscrapers Then and Now

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Asia Takes The Lead

In the 1990s, the action shifted around the globe to Asia. Countries such as Malaysia and China wanted to make the statement that they had arrived as participants in world affairs, and would play integral roles in the global economy. Constructing the world's tallest building was a dramatic way for a city to announce its presence as a commercial and financial capital.

In 1996, the 88-story twin Petronas Twin Towers, named after a Malaysian oil company, were completed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Although the occupied portion of the building reaches only 1,229 feet, the spires reach to 1,483 feet -- or 29 feet higher than the Sears Tower. The Petronas Twin Towers' reign as tallest building was short-lived however. In the Republic of Taiwan, the Taipei 101 Tower, completed in 2003 and set to open in 2004, eclipsed the Petronas Twin Towers by 184 feet. Located in Taiwan's capital city, the building is 101 stories high, comprising a series of stacked pagoda shapes. In Shanghai, China, the 95-story Shanghai World Financial Center is under construction. This building, delayed by financial setbacks, is slated to be finished in 2007, and it may surpass the Taipei 101 Tower in height.

Safety Innovations in Asia

Asia is a perilous region in which to erect tall buildings because it is beset with earthquakes and typhoons, either of which can prove disastrous to a building with a structural weakness. To offset this threat, calculations must be precise and precautions exhaustive -- changing a skyscraper's design or structure after construction begins is very expensive if possible at all.

The new Asia skyscrapers incorporate safety innovations to withstand the forces of nature. To endure earthquakes, the Taipei 101 Tower includes immense welded steel columns combined with a massive steel cage wrapped around the entire building that is designed to flex and bend to absorb seismic energy. (This design is meant to withstand the strongest earthquakes in a 2,500-year cycle.) To counteract the effects of wind, the same building has a "damping" device in the form of a 660-ton steel pendulum placed near the top of the structure.

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TV Tower
The Orient Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai is the world's third-tallest TV tower, after the CN Tower in Toronto and the Moscow TV Tower.
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Petronas Towers
The top of the Petronas Towers.
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