The current title-holder for tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, measuring 2,717 feet (828 meters) tall. The record-breaking building, designed by American architect Adrian Smith, achieved exactly what the creators of Dubai wanted it to do, says Antony Wood, president of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a global nonprofit that awards the "tallest building" designation.
"Dubai literally built itself out of the desert," says Wood. "The developer, Emaar, envisioned this huge development of many towers and a big mall with the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, at the center — the jewel in the crown. What they've achieved is incredible."
When Saudi Prince Alwaleed first set his sights on building the world's first kilometer-high tower, the Burj Khalifa was still under construction. But the intention from the start was to replicate the Dubai model in Saudi Arabia, says Wood. Jeddah Economic City would be a glimmering, futuristic metropolis on the Red Sea featuring the world's new tallest building, the Jeddah Tower.
Jeddah is located between the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina. "Before (the tower) was here, this was not considered a place that people would live," Hisham Jomah, chief development officer of Jeddah Economic Company, told CNN in 2018. "We are creating an independent city ... so that you don't have to leave here."
Adrian Smith, the architect of the Burj Khalifa, also designed the Jeddah Tower, and the two structures share some design elements. They are both considered "megatall" structures, the designation for any building surpassing 600 meters (1,968.5 feet).
The biggest similarity between the Burj Khalifa and the Jeddah Tower is that they both have a "Y"-shaped plan with three exterior walls instead of four. Through extensive wind-tunnel testing, Smith and his engineers figured out that the three-walled design was more aerodynamic and better able to withstand wind shear at dizzyingly high altitudes.
While the Burj Khalifa tapers in stages as different sections of the tower top out, the design for the Jeddah Tower is one continuously tapering tower that pierces the clouds like a giant needle.
The most buzzed-about feature of the Jeddah Tower is its open-air observation deck, the highest in the world at 2,187 feet (664 meters). The observation deck was originally designed as a helipad until the architects were informed that it would be too dangerous to land a helicopter at such heights with unpredictable desert winds.
If built to its original specs, the Jeddah Tower will require 80,000 tons (72,575 metric tons) of steel and be serviced by 59 elevators (including five double-decker cars) and 12 escalators. The bottom third will be reserved for office space, followed by a luxury hotel, with the highest of the 167 floors intended as apartments. A massive penthouse apartment will occupy the crown.