I mean for this post, as with all of my other posts, to be a thoughtful opinion piece. Feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree.
From an economics standpoint, supertall structures generally don’t seem to make much sense. As we can see with buildings like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai or the Jeddah Tower currently being constructed in Saudi Arabia, the costs of engineering a massive skyscraper are absolutely astronomical. CNN reported over a year ago that the Jeddah Tower was to cost $1.23 billion dollars. With the project being as massive as it is, the costs are likely to be even higher when all’s said and done. Much of the cost comes from having to develop new systems in order to make the supertall skyscraper function in a normal capacity even at 600+ meters high.
How do you offset the costs? Many point to tourism generated by the towers as a source of income. While this may work for Dubai, how many tourists are going to want to visit Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? Or Azerbaijan, where a massive, $2B, 1 kilometer-tall skyscraper is set to be constructed on the coast of the Caspian Sea in the near future? Many of these supertall towers are being constructed in the Middle East where they pose as massive targets and have little access to Western tourists.
In my opinion, if you’re going to build a supertall building, you’re just going to have to face the facts: supertall structures do not make money as effectively as ordinary skyscrapers. Sometimes, supertall skyscrapers just need to be seen for what they are: symbols of power. In the 2010’s, a decade where the world–despite all the non-state violence or the proxy wars–has become more peaceful than in previous decades, power cannot be displayed military. Power must be flaunted in other ways. China, with its massive economy, has begun building equally massive towers in the same line of thought.
However, the US also has its own supertall skyscraper, One World Trade Center in New York (the building in the featured image above). While under construction, it was given the working name of “Freedom Tower” to highlight the values it stands for: democracy, peace, liberty, and prosperity. I think this divisive time in American history calls for the construction of more “Freedom Towers”. China has shown these towers to be symbols of economic power. Many people think that the US is a waning economic giant in comparison to the rising BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). We need people with the money to build great projects to do so. We ought to be hosting World’s Fairs again. We ought to be building monuments to honor our nation’s greatest triumphs and memorials to remember our biggest downfalls. I think that supertall skyscrapers could be one way to get our heads out of the sand.
We Americans don’t need issues to divide us; we need symbols to look up to.