2015: The year we built more skyscrapers than ever before

The top 20. Image: CTBUH.

As you'd expect, 2015 was another bumper year of skyscraper-building. Turns out the men who build buildings (and the handful of women who are allowed to join in) were keen to make them as tall, and therefore phallic, as possible. Go figure. 

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has released some nice stats on where, and what, said men (and women) built last year. CTBUH logs the completion of all skyscrapers over 200m in height, so for the purposes of this piece the folllowing glossary applies:

  • "Skyscraper" = a building over 200m in height
  • "Supertall" = a skyscraper over 300m in height 
  • "Megatall" = a skyscraper over 600m in height 

Got that? Right, let's go.

We finished the most skyscrapers of any year on record

In total: 106. In 2014, we finished 99; in 2013, 74.

Europe got a new tallest building

Moscow's OKO tower, standing at 353.6m, became Europe's tallest building. It also looks a bit like a fork chopped in half:


It beat Europe's previous winner, Moscow's Mercury City tower, by around 16m. In 2016, it'll be knocked off the top spot by the as-yet uncompleted Vostok Tower, also in Moscow. Well done Moscow. Lots of tall buildings. Very manly of you. 

The world got a new second-tallest building

The Shanghai Tower, located in, you guessed it, Shanghai, is finally done. This means it now qualifies, at 632m, as the second-tallest building in the world.

Here it is next to two other supertalls in Shanghai's financial district: 

It's the one on the right. The tall one. Image: Getty.

Jakarta was surpisingly prolific

Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, is frankly underrated. By some metrics it's the largest city in the world, and it has a truly astonishing traffic problem. It was also the city which completed the most skyscrapers last year, finishing seven in total. Tied in second place were Nanjing, Nanning,and Shenzhen, all Chinese cities with five completions last year.

All of our top 100 tallest skyscrapers are now supertall

There are now 100 supertall buildings in the world. This is especially impressive when you consider that, as recently as 2010, the total stood at 50. 

North America has basically given up 

This chart shows how the location of the world's tallest skyscrapers has shifted over the past century or so. As you can see, only a handful are now located in North America, after its dominance earlier in the century. North America only completed three skyscrapers last year. 

Europe, while never exactly a big-hitter, completed eight last year, which is actually an all-time high. 

China is the undisputed king of skyscrapers

It finished 62 skyscrapers last year. That's more than one a week. 

The skyscraper trade has basically recovered from the recession

This chart shows the tallest building completed each year, and as you can see, there was a real lull in the post-crash years. The Burj Khalifa was completed, but it was also begun before the crash took hold. The Shanghai Tower, meanwhile, is the only megatall building that has been started and completed since the global financial meltdown. 

The CTBUH predicts that next year, 135 skyscrapers will be completed, setting another new record. Onwards and upwards, eh.



Coming soon: CityMetric will relaunch as City Monitor, a new publication dedicated to the future of cities

Coming soon!

Later this month, CityMetric will be relaunching with an entirely new look and identity, as well as an expanded editorial mission. We’ll become City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications coming soon from New Statesman Media Group. We can’t wait to share the new website with you, but in the meantime, here’s what CityMetric readers should know about what to expect from this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is going to be a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission will be to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we’ll cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing, and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications this fall, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

City Monitor will go live later this month. In the meantime, please visit citymonitor.ai to sign up for our forthcoming email newsletter.

As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our forthcoming digs. You can already follow City Monitor on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, sign up or keep following our existing account, which will switch over to our new name shortly. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

In the meantime, stay tuned, and thank you from all of us for being a loyal CityMetric reader. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.