PHOTOS: The World’s Biggest Buildings

PHOTOS: The World’s Biggest Buildings

Budgets may be smaller and downsizing inevitable, but when it comes to architecture, big is in. Seems whenever there’s an economic downturn, buildings go to new heights. The Empire State Building went up in 1931 during the Depression. Similarly, Burj Khalifa topped out at 2,723 feet in 2010, deep into the Great Recession. When times are tough, nothing says stability like a big, solid structure. These mega-buildings are universally comforting and inspiring.

Today’s superlatives of architecture trend toward high-tech achievements, and emerging regional powerhouses like Asia dominate the list. The biggest LCD screen in Beijing and the largest tented structure in Kazakhstan reveal a new competitive race that was once measured in height, but is now marked by impressive advances in engineering.

Such cutting-edge buildings put new tourism icons on the map, even as age-old examples of grand architecture continue to capture our imaginations. They remind us that the impulse to think and build big isn’t a new one. Consider the Great Pyramids–the world’s tallest structures for nearly four millennia–or Beijing’s Forbidden City, which still holds the record for the world’s largest palace complex and lures 12.8 million annual visitors.

As architects strive to outdo each other and new cities and structures command recognition, the new motto remains evident: more is more.

–Adam H. Graham

Biggest Clock Tower: Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Biggest Clock Tower: Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower, Mecca, Saudi Arabia
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This mega–clock tower broke several world records when it opened in 2011. For now, at least, it’s the tallest clock tower in the world, the tallest hotel in the world (the Fairmont Makkah Clock Royal Tower), and the world’s largest clock face—visible from 16 miles away and topped by a golden crescent minaret whose massive loudspeakers emit prayer calls to a distance of four miles. If that weren’t enough, it’s also the world’s second tallest building, exceeded only by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. The mega-structure is adjacent to the world’s largest mosque, the Masjid al-Haram.
Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Hotels

Biggest Archaeological Museum: The Grand Egyptian Museum, Giza, Egypt

Biggest Archaeological Museum: The Grand Egyptian Museum, Giza, Egypt
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Like many new extreme forms of architecture, Giza’s planned Grand Egyptian Museum was the outcome of a competition. The $550 million museum is slated to open in 2013 despite Egypt’s political turmoil. It’s a 210-acre project just a mile from the Giza Pyramids that will include a main structure made with translucent alabaster and a large atrium for ancient Egyptian artifacts and statues like the 3,200-year-old Ramesses II, relocated from Cairo’s Ramses Square.
Photo: Heneghan Peng Architects

Biggest Church: The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast

Biggest Church: The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast

Biggest Building: Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE

Biggest Building: Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE

Biggest Indoor Ski Resort: Skipark 360°, Stockholm

Biggest Indoor Ski Resort: Skipark 360°, Stockholm

Biggest Tent: Khan Shatyr Tent, Astana, Kazakhstan

Biggest Tent: Khan Shatyr Tent, Astana, Kazakhstan

Biggest Factory: Boeing Everett Factory, Everett, WA

Biggest Factory: Boeing Everett Factory, Everett, WA

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