"Supertall!"

We're getting acrophobia just thinking about the enormous towers on view in the Skyscraper Museum's new exhibit.

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  • Photograph: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

    Al Hamra Firdous Tower
    Kuwait City, Kuwait
    74 floors; 1,352 feet; external construction completed, interiors in progress


    This structure, the tallest in Kuwait, is one of the only skyscrapers in the world to feature a curved facade. But the distinctive design is also functional: U.S. firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill placed the concrete southern wall to absorb heat from the scorching desert sun.

  • Photograph: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

    Shanghai World Financial Center
    Shanghai, China
    101 floors; 1,614 feet; completed in 2008


    You can stand 1,600 feet above the city streets on this structure's 100th-floor Skywalk, the world's highest viewing platform. Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates' design stacks many layers---shops, event spaces, the Park Hyatt Shanghai and three observatories---atop one another. The building is located in Shanghai's Pudong business district, which is also home to the city's iconic Oriental Pearl Tower.

  • Photograph: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

    One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower)
    New York, New York
    104 floors; 1,776 feet (including spire); under construction; to be completed in 2013


    Lower Manhattan will again make its mark on New York City's skyline with the completion (finally!) of the landmark Freedom Tower, designed by superstar firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Its light-filled floors will house broadcast studios, two restaurants and a bi-level observation deck featuring a glass enclosure that will mark the heights of the original Twin Towers (1,362 feet and 1,368 feet).

  • Photograph: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

    Lotte Super Tower
    Seoul, South Korea
    123 floors; 1,821 feet; under construction; to be completed in 2014


    The design of this elegant, tapered building was inspired by Korean artwork. Typical of Asian skyscrapers, its 3.5 million square feet of space will be mixed-use, with a luxury hotel, offices and entertainment facilities. In an effort to gain LEED certification, plans for the massive edifice include wind turbines, external shading and water-harvesting systems.

  • Photograph: Gensler

    Shanghai Tower
    Shanghai, China
    121 floors; 2,073 feet; under construction; to be completed in 2014


    If any building symbolizes China's forward thrust, it's this spiral vertical city. Designed by Gensler with a goal of LEED certification, its transparent external wall will control the temperature inside, making it energy-efficient and improving indoor air quality; it will also draw power from wind turbines. Nine separate "neighborhoods," or quadrants rising from a garden atrium, should give the glass tower a sense of community.

  • Photograph: SOM/Nick Merrick Hedrich Blessing

    Burj Khalifa
    Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    More than 160 floors; 2,717 feet; completed in 2010


    Looking like it should topple over, this is the tallest man-made structure in the world. A 4,000-ton steel spire tops the Y-shaped, mainly residential tower, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (remember them?). Elite corporate suites, an observation deck and luxury apartments boast endless views of the desert and Persian Gulf.

Photograph: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Al Hamra Firdous Tower
Kuwait City, Kuwait
74 floors; 1,352 feet; external construction completed, interiors in progress


This structure, the tallest in Kuwait, is one of the only skyscrapers in the world to feature a curved facade. But the distinctive design is also functional: U.S. firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill placed the concrete southern wall to absorb heat from the scorching desert sun.

The iconic Empire State Building looks squat when compared to the 48 towers featured in "Supertall!," a new exhibit opening at the Skyscraper Museum on Wednesday 27. (To be fair, the old gal is 80.) The new generation of cloud-pushing spires are shooting up mostly in China, India, South Korea and the Middle East, with mixed uses and innovative engineering. Organized geographically, the exhibit features architectural models, photographs and videos of construction projects, as well as a history of skyscrapers. And the superlative title is appropriate: No building in the show—six of which you can learn about here—is smaller than 1,250 feet, the height of the ESB's 102nd-floor observation deck. "This is about more than ego," says museum director and curator Carol Willis. "It's a historic cycle of money, population and modernization. China is doing now what New York did 100 years ago." Looks like we've got some catching up to do.

UP IN THE SKY "Supertall!," The Skyscraper Museum, 39 Battery Pl at 1st Pl (212-968-1961, skyscraper.org). Wed--Sun noon--6pm; $5, seniors and students $2.50. Wed 27--Jan 31.

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