For over 5,000 years scattered peoples have been migrating to cities with the aspiration of finding work, security and prosperity. While hopes have not always been fulfilled, the city has continued to grow as earth’s primary urban form. The tall building is barely a century old, but it has transformed older cities and shaped new settlements around the world. In Asia and the Middle East, a forest of high rises has risen in the space of a generation, from bare ground or in place of humble villages. Behind the seeming chaos of tangled roads and unrelated buildings, is an underlying order and a hierarchy of scale that every city aspires to.
Unlike some smaller works of architecture, tall buildings contain highly technical systems which are replicated and costly. These buildings have the capability of generating significant financial return and there is a global community of real estate investors constantly surveying potentially beneficial locations around the world. While the uniformity of this global industrial sector might suggest uniform outcomes, the regions in which opportunities exist are varied, each with its own history, governance and economic marketplace. It is this dialectic between universal sameness and regional distinction which provides the narrative for this book and informs our observation of the important similarities and differences of tall buildings in our world cities.
Architect Scott Johnson has designed many notable tall buildings in American and Asian cities and he understands that he is not performing a solo turn, but making his contribution to what is there and yet to come. Beyond the race to build ever higher and denser, with this book Johnson brings his rare perspective to the social and environmental factors that create some of world’s most distinctive skylines.