Quest for the Tallest Building
From the pyramids of Ancient Egypt to modern day Dubai in the middleastern desert, human beings have been fascinated by seeing the world from a higher level. Certainly the pyramids were a distinct break from the flat desert. In centuries past, the highest buildings were religious structures or churches seemingly a spiritual icon of being closer to heaven, or at least being above the daily toils. If tall buildings do represent some spiritual ambition or a competitive contest, the CN tower has elevated spirits and taken the height game to a new level.
A number of buildings have laid claim to the world’s tallest freestanding structure in the world and each have enjoyed fame and reverence for decades after their construction. At some point, a newer, higher building succeeds the leader but no matter, that building still succeeds in drawing attention. Why do architects and builders to reach for the sky? In a city such as New York the reason may be simply to save on real estate costs and taxes. There were no limits on height in Manhattan and builders were encouraged to build higher.
In other cities such as Kuala Lumpur, there may not have been such a need to build to 1483 feet but the building now symbolizes great accomplishment and ambition to the Malaysian people. In the competitive Asian Rim, it is easy not to be noticed, so the building along with the corresponding notoriety can attract world attention to this country which people would otherwise ignore. The end game of such tall buildings may be to create a groundswell of reverence in the population. Whether it’s the tourism generated dollars or awareness of the country’s economy, such an icon can be an economic and political force. Just the fact a country built it seems to suggest it has the technology and financing to be a trading partner with the world.
When the CN Tower was built in 1974, there were few tall buildings in Canada. When the tower was constructed, it was considered controversial and perhaps a monumental waste of time and money. Canadians were conservative and not particularly interested in ambitious challenges or in being noticed in the world community. 35 years later, Canada is well known around the world and Canadians have a different view of themselves. The CN Tower has attracted over 60 million visitors and hundreds of millions of people around the world have seen its image in magazines and on television. The billion dollar cost seems pitifully small compared to the overall revenue it has generated.
You’ve probably seen pictures of Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but didn’t know where it was, however many people around the world do. It was featured in a feature length movie starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones called Entrapment. In many ways these towers do create a lot of attention and the collective attention of the public will have an effect on where money is attracted to. Businesses will want to be associated with anything iconic or popular. The CN Tower is still represented on web sites, magazines, and television advertising. The tower coincided with Toronto’s rise to the political and business center of Canada.
If you’ve visited Toronto and been to the CN Tower, you’ve probably stood in awe at how gigantic it is. Could this one tourist attraction shape the opinion of tourists and residents about Toronto and Canada? If the tower didn’t exist, would Toronto be regarded the same way and would people in Toronto have different expectations of themselves?
To say the CN Tower has caused Canada’s amazing economic growth and the change in our culture is of course ridiculous. In fact, it is just an expression of that growth in technological ability and ambition. The glorification of technology in Canada began many decades before and the CN Tower was just another expression of Canadian’s high regard for big construction projects.
Big Ambitions in Toronto
The SkyDome, Eaton Centre, Ontario Place and Casa Loma are more evidence of Canadian’s love for big construction. In the last decade, The CN Tower has fended off a few attempts by rival towers to lay claim to the tallest structure, but has kept its status as the world’s tallest freestanding structure by adding a taller antenna on top.
The Burj Dubai – World’s Tallest Structure
The Burj Dubai already has this tactic in place so that in future, if any building attempts to rival its height, it can add sections for hundreds and hundreds more feet. The Burj Dubai is now the world’s tallest building. It passed the CN Tower during the winter of 2008. It will actually surpass the CN Tower by almost 1000 feet. It is difficult to imagine why anyone would want to live at such a height, but perhaps they will feel they’re a little closer to heaven with a great view to match.
The difference between the Burj Dubai and the CN Tower is that it will have over 200 floors occupied with people in apartments. In the coming decades ahead this new iconic structure will shape views of the Middle East. Another difference is that this building is more about the power of wealth and resourcefulness and less about technology. The country of Dubai will run out of oil money in a few years and to deal with that issue, they’re turning to tourism to make Dubai a place everyone wants to be. It will no doubt become much more than it is already, so it should be respected for how it symbolizes economic innovation. Perhaps Toronto and the CN Tower will take a cue from Dubai’s amazing success and remake itself for a new role in the 21st Century.
Today the CN Tower still entertains 2 million visitors and acts as a visual centerpoint for commuters, residents, and sailors on Lake Ontario. Everyone who flies into Toronto on a commercial airline automatically looks for the CN Tower, even Toronto residents do. It’s that important for getting your bearings.
Some new developments have brought some new excitement for 2008. One of the elevators has a glass floor section to allow riders to see down the elevator shaft. The CN Tower’s stats may not measure up to the Burj Dubai, but the CN tower still has the world’s highest revolving restaurant and the elevator ride is free if you book a full course meal.
In so many ways, the CN Tower represents something higher but it’s not about living at a higher level, it’s about striving for something better. Symbolically, the tower might be more about ambition and a thrill, and for a world of workaholics, that might be much more preferable. In terms of tourism, Toronto doesn’t bake in 45 degree scorching heat and there’s much more to do in the city. The Burj Dubai will have to do a lot more to eclipse Toronto’s CN Towers appeal as a beacon of tourism.