14 oct 08 | Building (online)

The tallest building in the world: the contenders

By Dan Stewart

Five new towers have been proposed for the Middle East recently with each claiming the mantle 'world's tallest building', but which is likely to be built?

This week saw the Saudi Arabian Royal Family launch the Kingdom Tower with grand fanfare as "the tallest building in the world". Which is all very well, if it were not the third developer to have done so in the last two weeks. Leaving aside the Freudian implications of Middle East's most competitive developers showing off their world-beating structures, we ask how many of these will be completed - and offer (extremely unofficial) odds on each ending up as the world's tallest.

1 Dubai
Potential nickname: The One
Location: Dubai
Developer: Meraas
Size: Unknown
Architect: Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, formerly of SOM
Details: Meraas have promised only that 1 Dubai will be "one of the tallest buildings in the world" but early reports about the £45bn Jumeira Gardens project said it would boast a 2.4km tower - yes, that's more than twice as tall as every other tower on this list.
Odds of being completed: Middling. If it can overcome the technical challenges of building a tower as much as three times the size of the Burj Dubai, any developer backed by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has got to put its money where its mouth is, right?
Odds on being the tallest: 4/1. Whether or not 1 Dubai aims to be the tallest is still a matter of conjecture, but if Meraas decides to go for it, will any of Dubai's developers have the courage to build taller than the Sheikh's own company?

The Burj Dubai
Potential nickname: It doesn't need one - the Burj Dubai has become a brand of its own.
Location: Dubai
Developer: Emaar Properties
Size: 688m and counting
Architect: Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
Details: Already dwarfed by the other proposals on this list, the Burj Dubai is the granddaddy of them all, already an icon of the city under construction in the heart of Dubai.
Odds of being completed: Better than any on this list, for obvious reasons. Failing the enormous and catastrophic overnight collapse of the Dubai construction market, the Burj Dubai will be completed towards the end of next year.
Odds on being the tallest: n/a - Of course it is already the tallest in the world, but you wouldn't get good odds on it remaining as such. Emaar still hasn't admitted how tall it will be when completed, but surely there's only so much higher it can go. The only hope it has of remaining the tallest will be if all the others fall by the wayside. Not impossible given the instability of the world markets, but highly unlikely. It could always boost its stature by sticking a colossal aerial on top - but then what's to stop the others doing the same?

The Tower of a Thousand and One Arabian Nights
Potential nickname: The Big Kuhner
Location: Silk City, Kuwait
Developer: Tamdeen Real Estate
Size: 1,001m
Architect: Eric Kuhne
Details: Despite the naff name, Eric Kuhne's helter-skeltering tower is the genuinely beautiful jewel in the crown of the £66bn City of Silk development.
Odds of being completed: At the moment, rocky. Kuwait's Central Bank has organised crunch meetings this week to help deal with a crash in its stock market brought on by the global credit crunch. The government has apparently lost about $300bn on investments abroad.
Odds on being the tallest: 10/1. The developers have committed the cardinal sin of announcing how tall the tower will be before it's built. That allows all of its rivals to build theirs taller.

The Kingdom Tower
Potential nickname: The Saud in the Cloud
Location: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Developer: Kingdom Holdings
Size: "at least" 1km
Architect: ?
Details: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia says the Kingdom Tower will be the world's tallest, and not only has he avoided saying how tall it is, he hasn't even sent out designs to the world's media, or tell us who has been commissioned to design it.
Odds of being completed: Royally good. If the King says it will be completed it will be completed, never mind the rapidly declining real estate market in Saudi Arabia. Don't forget, the Saudis have oil aplenty so chances are it will be built even if it has to stand empty.
Odds on being the tallest: 2/1 favourite. The secrecy surrounding this project is such that none of Kingdom Tower's rivals will have any idea about its eventual height until it is well on its way to completion.

The New Dubai Tower
Potential nickname: The Fountain Pen
Location: Dubai
Developer: Nakheel
Size: 1km
Architect: Woods Bagot
Details: Nakheel's unnamed tower will form the centrepiece of its £21.7bn New Dubai development in the Jebel Ali area of the city.
Odds of being completed: Good. Work has apparently already been going for a year, and the property collapse is currently predicted to hit Dubai after this goes to market. Nakheel is still one of the most reliable names in Gulf development.
Odds on being the tallest: 3/1. Chances are by the time it gets halfway to completion, Emaar will have announced a taller one.