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Tallest: Summary
Tallest Buildings
Tallest Towers
Tallest Structures
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Britain's Tallest
Heights
Collapses (timeline)
General

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Towers

The World's Tallest Buildings and Structures: Timeline

The subject of the world's tallest building(s) was traditionally a minefield for quizzers, but it was finally settled in September 2008 when the Burj Khalifa in Dubai became the tallest structure ever built.

I say finally, but records are of course made to be broken ...

The problem lies in how you define a building (as opposed to a tower or a structure), and – even more contentious – how you measure its height. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) defines a "building" as "(a) structure that is designed for residential, business or manufacturing purposes" and "has floors".

(The CTBUH is a non–profit international organization, based in Chicago – the home of the skyscraper.)

Wikipedia notes that 'Tall churches and cathedrals occupy a middle ground: their lower areas are regularly occupied, but much of their height is in bell towers and spires which are not. Whether a church or cathedral is a "building" or merely a "structure" for the purposes of determining the title of "world's tallest building" is a subjective matter of definition (this article treats churches and cathedrals as buildings).'

As for measuring the height of a building: the default criterion used by the CTBUH is "height of the architectural top of the building", which includes spires but not antennae, masts or flag poles.

In the following table, a free–standing structure that doesn't qualify as a building is listed as a tower. I'm using the distinction made by Wikipedia: the Buildings are listed on the History of the World's Tallest Buildings page, the Towers are listed in the Timeline of World's Tallest Freestanding Structures, and the Structures are listed in the Timeline of Guyed Structures on Land.

The heights of each of these structures, and their locations (there isn't always room to put them here) are given in later sections of this page.

Tallest Building Tallest Tower Tallest Structure
2560 BC Click to show or hide the answer
1221 Click to show or hide the answer
1311 Click to show or hide the answer
1549 Click to show or hide the answer
1647 Click to show or hide the answer
1874 Click to show or hide the answer
1876 Click to show or hide the answer
1880 Click to show or hide the answer
1884 Click to show or hide the answer
1889 Click to show or hide the answer
1890 Click to show or hide the answer
1901 Click to show or hide the answer
1908 Click to show or hide the answer
1909 Click to show or hide the answer
1913 Click to show or hide the answer
1930 Click to show or hide the answer
1930 Click to show or hide the answer
1931 Click to show or hide the answer
1954 Click to show or hide the answer
1956 Click to show or hide the answer
1959 Click to show or hide the answer
1960 Click to show or hide the answer
1962 Click to show or hide the answer
1963 Click to show or hide the answer
1967 Click to show or hide the answer
1972 Click to show or hide the answer
1974 Click to show or hide the answer 1974 Click to show or hide the answer
1975 Click to show or hide the answer
1991 Click to show or hide the answer
1998 Click to show or hide the answer
2004 Click to show or hide the answer
2010 Click to show or hide the answer

Strictly speaking, by my definition above, the Great Pyramid isn't really a building. I've called it one as it adds more than a little historical perspective to the rest of the list.

And the same applies in the next section:

Tallest Buildings

The following table is a timeline of the tallest buildings (man–made structures with space for living, working or worshipping) since the Pyramids:

     MetresFeet
Egypt Click to show or hide the answer c. 2560 BC146481
England Click to show or hide the answer 1221149489
England Click to show or hide the answer 1311160525
Estonia Click to show or hide the answer 1549159522
Germany Click to show or hide the answer 1625151495
Egypt Click to show or hide the answer 1647146481
Germany Click to show or hide the answer 1874147483
France Click to show or hide the answer 1876151495
Germany Click to show or hide the answer 1880157515
Germany Click to show or hide the answer 1890162530
USA Click to show or hide the answer 1901167548
New York Click to show or hide the answer 1908187612
New York Click to show or hide the answer 1909213700
New York Click to show or hide the answer 1913241792
New York Click to show or hide the answer 1930283928
New York Click to show or hide the answer 19303191,046
New York Click to show or hide the answer 19313811,250
New York Click to show or hide the answer 19724171,368
Chicago Click to show or hide the answer 19744421,450
Kuala Lumpur Click to show or hide the answer 19984521,483
Taipei Click to show or hide the answer 20045091,671
Dubai Click to show or hide the answer 20078302,717

Tallest Towers

The following towers (free–standing structures) were taller than the tallest buildings at the times when they were built:

Washington, USA Click to show or hide the answer 1884169555
Paris, France Click to show or hide the answer 1889300986
Moscow, Soviet Union Click to show or hide the answer 19675371,762
Toronto, Canada Click to show or hide the answer 19755531,815

Tallest Structures

The following radio and TV masts were the tallest man–made structures at the time they were built:

Oklahoma, USA Click to show or hide the answer 19544801,576
Caprock, New Mexico, USA Click to show or hide the answer 1956491 1,610
Raymond, Maine, USA Click to show or hide the answer 1959495 1,624
Missouri, USA Click to show or hide the answer 1960511 1,677
Cusseta, Georgia, USA Click to show or hide the answer 1962533 1,749
Blanchard, North Dakota, USA Click to show or hide the answer 1963629 2,063
Poland (84 km west of Warsaw) Click to show or hide the answer 1974646 2,121

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

... is the campanile (bell tower) of Pisa Cathedral.

Construction began Click to show or hide the answer
Second stage completed, at which point the campanile began to take on its famous lean Click to show or hide the answer
Construction resumed Click to show or hide the answer
Seventh floor completed Click to show or hide the answer
Completed with the addition of the bell–chamber Click to show or hide the answer

Britain's Tallest: Timeline

I found it surprisingly difficult to find definitive information about this, and to decide where to begin. We've already seen that both Old St. Paul's and Lincoln Cathedral were the tallest buildings in the world in their time, so it's fairly safe to assume that they were the tallest in Britain – until something taller came along. However ... Britain's tallest church is now Salisbury Cathedral, so I think it's equally safe to assume that after Lincoln's central spire collapsed and the spire of Old St. Paul's was destroyed by lightning, Salisbury Cathedral was Britain's tallest building.

The first building in Britain that was taller than Salisbury Cathedral was the Post Office Tower (completed in 1964). But most lists of Britain's tallest buildings start with either the Midland Grand Hotel (St. Pancras Station) or the Victoria Tower – part of the Palace of Westminster, a.k.a. the Houses of Parliament. I'm guessing that some sources classify the Victoria Tower as a tower, rather than a building, and that when listing the highest buildings they're excluding church spires (churches and cathedrals, as noted above, occupying a 'middle ground'). But because different quiz question setters may use different criteria, I've included the Victoria Tower, and also those buildings that were the tallest if you exclude it.

Except where otherwise stated, all of these buildings are (or were) in London.

Britain's tallest churches:

Year MetresFeet
1221149489 Click to show or hide the answer
1311160525 Click to show or hide the answer
1549149489 Click to show or hide the answer
1561123404 Click to show or hide the answer

Britain's tallest building, on completion, excluding church spires:

186098.5325 Click to show or hide the answer

Britain's tallest building, excluding church spires and the Victoria Tower:

186980263 Click to show or hide the answer
191190295 Click to show or hide the answer

Taller than the Victoria Tower, but not as tall as Salisbury Cathedral spire:

1961107351 Click to show or hide the answer
1962118387 Click to show or hide the answer
1963119390 Click to show or hide the answer

Definitely Britain's tallest building:

1964177581 Click to show or hide the answer
1980183600 Click to show or hide the answer
1991235770 Click to show or hide the answer
20123101,017 Click to show or hide the answer

Heights

The following table lists selected buildings, towers and guyed structures, in order of height.

This includes all of the buildings, towers and structures listed in the first section of this page; the ones that aren't listed there are in bold type.

  Completed MetresFeet
Nelson's Column 184352169
Leaning Tower of Pisa 137256183
Lincoln Cathedral (after the collapse of the central spire) 1549 83 271
St. Mary's Church, Stralsund (after the rebuilding of the tower)1708 104341
Salisbury Cathedral 1315 123404
St. Olaf's Church, Tallinn (present–day height) (1625?) 124407
Strasbourg Cathedral 1647 142469
The Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza c. 2560 BC146481
Church of St. Nicholas, Hamburg 1874147483
Old St. Paul's, London (destroyed by fire in 1666) 1221 149 489
St. Mary's Church, Stralsund (before the lightning strike)1549 151495
Rouen Cathedral1876 151495
Cologne Cathedral1880 157515
Blackpool Tower 1894158519
St. Olaf's Church, Tallinn (after Lincoln's spire collapsed, but before its own tower burnt down) 1549 159 522
Lincoln Cathedral (before the collapse of the central spire) 1311 160 525
Ulm Minster1890 162530
Philadelphia City Hall 1901 167548
Beetham Tower, Manchester 2006169554
Washington Monument1884169555
Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth 2005170560
Post Office Tower (London) 1964177581
Singer Building (New York) 1908 187612
Metropolitan Life Tower (New York) 1909 213700
One Canada Square, Canary Wharf 1991235771
Woolworth Building (New York) 1913 241792
Bank of Manhattan Trust Building (New York) 1930 283928
Eiffel Tower1889300984
Shard London Bridge 20123101,017
Chrysler Building (New York)19303191,047
Empire State Building (New York)1931 3811,250
World Trade Center (New York) 1972 4171,368
Sears Tower (Chicago)1974 4421,450
Petronas Tower (Kuala Lumpur) 1998 4521,483
Griffin TV Tower (Oklahoma City) 1954 4801,576
KOBR–TV Tower (Caprock, New Mexico) 1956 4911,610
WGME TV Tower (Raymond, Maine) 1959 4951,624
Taipei 1012004 5091,671
KFVS TV Mast (Missouri) 1960 5111,677
WTVM/WBRL–TV &WVRK–FM Tower (Cusseta, Georgia, USA) 1962 5331,749
Ostankino Tower (Moscow)19675371,762
CN Tower (Toronto)19755531,815
KVLY–TV Mast (Blanchard, North Dakota)19636292,063
Tokyo Sky Tree 20126342,080
Warsaw Radio Mast (collapsed in 1991) 1974 646 2,121
Burj Khalifa (Dubai)20108302,723

Collapses (timeline)

Central spire of Lincoln Cathedral collapses in a storm – leaving St. Olaf's, Tallinn, as the world's tallest building Click to show or hide the answer
Spire of St. Olaf's burns down after being struck by lightning, leaving St. Mary's Church in Stralsund, Germany (on the Baltic coast) as the world's tallest building Click to show or hide the answer
Steeple tower of St. Mary's (Stralsburg) burns down after being struck by lightning, leaving the Great Pyramid as the world's tallest structure and Strasbourg Cathedral as the world's tallest church (until 1874, when both were surpassed by St. Nicholas's, Hamburg) Click to show or hide the answer
Campanile of St. Mark's Cathedral, Venice (built between the 9th and 12th centuries) collapses Click to show or hide the answer
Warsaw Radio Mast collapses – leaving the KVLY–TV mast once again as the world's tallest structure Click to show or hide the answer

General

47–storey, 554–foot (169 metre) tower built on Deansgate, Manchester, 2005–6 – Britain's tallest building outside London, said to be Europe's tallest residential building; houses the Manchester Hilton Hotel in its lowest 23 floors, including Cloud23 bar on the 23rd Click to show or hide the answer
Tallest building in Hong Kong Click to show or hide the answer
Official name of the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster – which houses Big Ben – since 2012 (changed in honour of the Diamond Jubilee; previously known as St. Stephen's Tower) Click to show or hide the answer
The first building to have over 100 floors: corner of 5th Avenue and 4th Street, New York; official address 350 Fifth Avenue Click to show or hide the answer
Tower of London: the Bloody Tower was known, until Tudor times (and the murder of the princes) as the Click to show or hide the answer
Broadcasting Tower – winner of the Best Tall Building Overall Award in 2010 (British city) Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
The Devereux, Flint, Bell, Wakefield, Cradle, Bloody, Brick, and Martin towers are parts of the Click to show or hide the answer
Named after a Genoese tower on Corsica, unsuccessfully attacked by two British warships in 1794; around 140 were built throughout the British Empire over the next 50 years, mostly along the south coast of England Click to show or hide the answer
New building on site of World Trade Centre (New York) – construction began 2006, scheduled for completion 2013. Colloquially known as the Freedom Tower Click to show or hide the answer
Britain's tallest building (and the world's 87th tallest, in 2016); completed in 2012; Prince Andrew abseiled down it 2 months after its inauguration ceremony Click to show or hide the answer
605–foot tower in Seattle, Washington, built for the 1962 World's Fair Click to show or hide the answer
Centrepiece of the redevelopment of Portsmouth Harbour, opened 2005 – then the tallest building in Britain outside London (558 ft); sponsored by Emirates from 2015 Click to show or hide the answer
Completed in 2012 as the world's second tallest building (634m / 2,080ft) Click to show or hide the answer
Official name of the Central Tower in the Palace of Westminster (cf. Elizabeth Tower) Click to show or hide the answer
The great stone keep of the Tower of London – its oldest part (built c. 1078 – c. 1100) Click to show or hide the answer
New name (since 2009) for the Sears Tower, Chicago – the world's tallest building from 1974 to 1998 Click to show or hide the answer

According to the the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a skyscraper is over 100 metres tall; a skyscraper over 300 metres tall is Click to show or hide the answer
... and a skyscraper over 600 metres tall is Click to show or hide the answer

© Haydn Thompson 2017