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TALL BUILDINGS are evidently of the “guy” gender, because so many of them lie about their height. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (http://www.ctbuh.org) has reported that the architectural practice of topping a building with a useless spire is more popular than ever.
“Useless,” that is, unless one wants bragging rights.
In an article titled “Vanity Height: the Use-less Space in Today’s Tallest” (http://goo.gl/SzvyNO), the CTBUH compared the non-occupiable height of a skyscraper versus its overall height, the latter being the figure often cited in any list of tall structures. Sensibly enough, the Vanity Ratio, defined by this quotient of non-occupiable height/overall height, is a means of judging just how much cheatin’ is taking place.
It turns out there are cheatin’ skyscrapers the world around. The current record-holding VR is Burj Al Arab in Dubai. Of its 1053-ft. overall height, 407 ft. is architectural fillip, thus giving it a VR of 39 percent.
The world’s current tallest building at 2717 ft. overall, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, has a VR of 29 percent. This, in itself, carries bragging rights of sorts. If the Burj Khalifa’s cheatin’ part were erected as a standalone in Europe, it would be the continent’s 11th tallest building.
The world’s second tallest building, the Zifeng Tower in Nanjing, China, rates a VR of 30 percent in the form of a straightforward communications needle atop other non-occupiable space.
New York City’s Bank of America Tower, currently third tallest building in the world, is second only to Burj Al Arab in cheatin’. Its non-occupiable communications spire gives the Bank of America Tower a VR of 36 percent.
The current record holder in VR cheatin’ is Moscow’s Ukraina Hotel, built in 1955 with 42 percent of its 676-ft. height as vanity. In fact, the CTBUH sets height criteria concerning extreme VR: A structure with a VR of 50 percent or beyond, typically a communications tower, is considered a “non-building.”
At the opposite extreme, The Index in Dubai, being spireless, has a vanity height of only 13 ft., just 1 percent of its 1076-ft. height.
If its overall height is beyond 300 meters (984 ft.), a skyscraper is called a “supertall.” Thus far, there have been 74 supertalls, counting the twin towers of the World Trade Center, with others being announced frequently enough to keep CTBUH busy.
Without vanity height, 44 of the world’s current 72 supertalls (61 percent of them) would lose supertall status. Not surprisingly, supertalls have proliferated in recent time. CTBUH identifies only two built prior to 1950; five between 1950 and 1974; 17 built between 1975 and 1999; and 50 built between 1999 and 2013.
Check out the neat interactive chart at http://goo.gl/Wjo5Hn that identifies the history of vanity height from the 1930s’ Chrysler Building and Empire State Building to today’s supertalls.
The Empire State Building, completed in 1931, is exemplary in its use of space. Its occupied height of 1224 ft. compared to overall height of 1250 ft. gives it a VR of a mere 2.1 percent.
The Chrysler Building, completed a year earlier, shows that cheatin’ has been taking place for a long time. The 40 Wall Street Building (now the Trump Building) was going up at the same time, both vying for tallest in the world. The Chrysler Building won by assembling a 125-ft. spire in secret and hoisting this Art Deco fillip into place once 40 Wall was topped off.
Your author, it can be noted, is just a skosh less than 6 ft. in height; no cheatin’. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013