2 aug 11  | The Chicago Tribune

Chicago architecture firm to design world's tallest tower

By Ryan Haggerty

A tower designed by Chicago architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill and to be built in Saudi Arabia will be the world's tallest building if completed, according to plans unveiled today.

Kingdom Tower will be built in Jeddah, a port city on the Red Sea, according to Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. The building will be more than 3,280 feet tall and at least 568 feet taller than the world's current tallest building, Dubai's Burj Khalifa.

Smith was with the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill when he designed the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa, which opened in January 2010.

Construction of Kingdom Tower will start "imminently" and is expected to last about five years, according to Smith and Gill's firm. The building will house a luxury hotel, apartments, condos, office space and the world's highest observatory and is expected to cost $1.2 billion to construct. The tower is part of Kingdom City, a development project in Jeddah expected to cost $20 billion.

The building's exact height has not been revealed. Some previous reports had said the building was expected to be one mile high, but those reports were quickly discredited by Smith and Gill's firm.

The plans were announced today by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of Saudi King Abdullah and chairman of Kingdom Holding Company. The skyscraper, which would be at least 1,500 feet taller than Chicago's Willis Tower, represents the latest example of Chicago-based architecture firms taking on high-profile overseas work as the American commercial real estate market struggles to recover from the building bust of the 1990s and the recession.