2019 Tall Building Predictions

CTBUH enters its 50th year alongside several significant tall buildings.

by CTBUH

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) commemorates the 50th anniversary of its founding this year. It shares its birthyear of 1969 with several significant tall buildings, including Chicago’s 875 North Michigan (formerly the John Hancock Center), the Chase Tower (formerly the First National Bank) and Aviva Tower (formerly the Commercial Union Tower). A revealing coincidence: 160-m-tall Morrison Hotel was the third-tallest building ever to be demolished; it was done in 1965 to make way for the First National Bank tower. And, Aviva Tower may not survive to its 51st year – it is set to be demolished to make way for the 1 Undershaft project.

875 North Michigan; photo © Sandeep Goel
875 North Michigan; photo © Sandeep Goel

March

The U.K.’s planned exit from the European Union is shrouded in uncertainty as a March 29 deadline looms. The prospect of a “hard Brexit” (without a full agreement on terms) already has global financial firms scrambling to relocate staff, rival European financial capitals vying for business that might be displaced and overseas investors wondering whether London will continue to be a safe haven for their cash. London’s always-contentious skyline was already unpredictable; Brexit blows in an additional layer of “London Fog.” Like the rest of the world, the tall-building industry is on tenterhooks.

London; photo by Daniel-Chapma
London; photo by Daniel-Chapma

April

The 462-m-tall Lakhta Center was commissioned in mid October 2018 and received its spire in January 2018, so we’re confident 2019 will finally see it open. It’s been a long road. The project, variously called Gazprom Tower and Okhta Tower, was conceived in 2005 to rise in the center of St. Petersburg, Russia. Concerns about its impact on the historically rich Okhtinsky Cape site ultimately resulted in its redesign in 2011 and a move to a suburban location, where it now rises on an inlet of the Gulf of Finland. Its stunning appearance will be augmented by programming on the site, including a planetarium, performance hall and medical center.

Lakhta Center; photo © Viktor Sukharukov
Lakhta Center; photo © Viktor Sukharukov

May

It is no secret that many of the world’s great cities are built (and still growing) in some of the most seismically and flood-prone areas. But, a swathe of recent news underscores the point and reinforces the urgency of assessing environmental risk to tall buildings and cities holistically. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s November 2018 report predicted dire prospects for coastal cities under a 1.5°C temperature rise. A U.S. Geological Survey report warned that 38 San Francisco high rises built between 1964 and 1994 are at risk of collapse in a severe earthquake. The release of new building codes in Seattle acknowledge tall buildings’ potentially high susceptibility to quake damage in that city. Planning for the worst will be a “best tall practice” of 2019.

Seattle; photo by Rattlhed
Seattle; photo by Rattlhed

June

As more people crowd into cities, some of which are inevitably sited in constrained geographic locations, horizontal expansion at height is looking like an increasingly credible option. This is epitomized by the Raffles City Chongqing project, which spectacularly links four towers with the world’s highest (around 250 m), 280-m-long skybridge, set to finish construction this year. The “sky conservatory” will house a public observatory, residential clubhouse, hotel lobby and restaurants. Although one of the most impressive, this won’t be the last such project. Stay on top of the trend by following the CTBUH Research Project "Skybridges: Bringing the Horizontal into the Vertical Realm."

Raffles City Chongqing; photo © Capitaland
Raffles City Chongqing; photo © Capitaland

July

Although CTBUH has not yet verified SOHO Li Ze’s claim to have the “world’s tallest atrium,” the fact that it is a central focus of the design affirms a growing recognition that the interior experience of high-rises matters as much as their appearance from outside. The spectacular interior atrium at SOHO Li Ze showcases the impact that parametric design software has had and how a new emphasis on visual connectivity within workplaces has updated and accelerated the “soaring atrium” trend that had mainly been confined to hotels built in the 1960s-1980s. CTBUH explored the primacy of this trend with the 2018 Technical Guide, "The Space Within: Skyspaces in Tall Buildings."

SOHO Li Ze; photo © Satoshi Ohashi
SOHO Li Ze; photo © Satoshi Ohashi

August

The lifecycle of tall buildings will continue to be a subject of intense scrutiny. In recognition of this, a new CTBUH Awards category for "Renovation" has been created. In competitive commercial markets like New York City, extreme creativity sometimes prevails when a building has reached the end of its useful life. Such is the case at 425 Park Avenue, the interior of which is being gutted and incised with new structure, extending a 31-story, 118-m-tall 1957 office building into a 44-story, 262-m-tall contemporary tower this year. Then again, closer than 10 blocks away, 270 Park Avenue, a 52-story, 215-m-tall high-rise from 1960 is set to begin demolition this year to make way for the new JP Morgan Chase headquarters.

425 Park Avenue; image © dbox:Foster + Partners
425 Park Avenue; image © dbox:Foster + Partners

September

The burgeoning Melbourne, Australia, skyline will have a new addition as Aurora Melbourne Central completes, becoming the city’s second-tallest building. The residential tower deploys a phased-occupancy approach, which allows some residents to move into lower floors even as construction continues on upper floors. The Brisbane Skytower, set to complete this year, is also opening in phases. Expect to see more phased openings, and not just in Australia, this year and beyond, as developers hedge against risk during long construction periods by selling units as they are constructed, as opposed to attempting to sell all units in advance of construction or waiting until construction completes to begin sales. The latter approach risks construction loans coming due before any units have been sold.

Aurora Melbourne Central; image © Elenberg Fraser
Aurora Melbourne Central; image © Elenberg Fraser

October

The Chicago skyline will see two major additions in 2019 as NEMA Chicago, a 273-m-tall residential project, completes at the south end of Grant Park, and Vista Tower, a 363-m-tall mixed-use building, tops out along the Chicago River. Both projects will be in full evidence as delegates arrive for the 10th CTBUH World Congress, running from October 28 to November 2. Both towers should be viewable from east-facing (Vista) and south-facing (NEMA) guestrooms at the Congress venue, Aqua Tower.

Vista Tower; photo © Marshall Gerometta
Vista Tower; photo © Marshall Gerometta

November

Although Brazil’s cities are synonymous with high-rise skylines (usually as the backdrop to a spectacular beach), it may be surprising that the country has never broken the 200-m-tall mark with its buildings. In 2019, that changes, and it’s all happening in one seafront city, Balneario Camboriu, where four buildings of at least 200 m in height will either be completed or top out this year. The so-called “Brazilian Dubai” is really starting to live up to the nickname.

Balneario Camboriu, the Brazilian Dubai; photo by Flickr_Tony
Balneario Camboriu, the Brazilian Dubai; photo by Flickr_Tony

December

It took the world 45 years of skyscraper construction to build its first supertall (a building at least 300 m high): the Chrysler Building in New York (1930). It took another 85 years to build 100 such buildings around the world. But, in just four years, we will have built another 100. By the end of 2019, there will be more than 200 supertall buildings, and more than 100 of them will be in China.

Shenzhen, China; photo by Xublake
Shenzhen, China; photo by Xublake