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Jean-Marc MICHEL | profile | all galleries >> Malaysia >> Kuala Lumpur >> Petronas Towers tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Petronas Towers

The Petronas Twin Towers (also known as the Petronas Towers), in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, were once the world's tallest buildings when measured from the level of the main entrance to the structural or architectural top. It has since been unseated by the Taipei 101 on October 17, 2003. The Petronas Twin Towers are currently the tallest twin towers in the world, and it lays claim to being the world's tallest high rise of the 20th century. Critics point out that this applies to only one of four height categories defined by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, although the three additional height categories were only introduced as the tower neared completion in 1996, as opposed to the original category which had been in use since 1969.

The towers, which were designed by Argentine architect CÚsar Pelli were completed in 1998. The 88-floor towers constructed of largely reinforced concrete with a steel and glass facade were designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art, a reflection of Malaysia's Muslim heritage. They were built on the site of Kuala Lumpur's race track. Because of the depth of the bedrock the buildings were built on the world's deepest foundation going down some 120 meters and requiring massive amounts of concrete. In an unusual move, a different construction company was hired for each of the towers, and they were made to compete against each other. Eventually the builders of Tower 2, Samsung Constructions, won the race, despite starting a month behind Tower 1, built by Hazama Corporation, although Tower 2 ran into problems when they discovered the structure was 25 millimeters off from vertical. Due to a lack of steel and the huge cost of importing steel, the towers were constructed on a cheaper radical design of super high strength reinforced concrete. High-strength concrete is a material familiar to Asian contractors and twice as effective as steel in sway reduction. Supported by 23-by-23-metre concrete cores and an outer ring of widely-spaced super columns, the towers showcase a sophisticated structural system that accommodates its slender profile and provides from 1300 to 2000 square metres of column-free office space per floor.

Below the twin towers is Suria KLCC, a popular shopping mall, and Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, the home of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Petronas Malaysia's national oil company, set out to build the world's tallest building. Although other buildings such as the Sears Tower have higher occupied floors, a higher pinnacle, and a higher roof, the Petronas Twin Towers' spires are classified as architectural details and rise to 452 m (1483 feet), giving it the greatest structural height until Taipei 101. Taking advantage of the quirks of the rules governing building measurements (counting spires but not antennas) has generated a large amount of controversy over the towers' claim to the title. Other buildings in history have used spires to increase their height but had always been taller overall to the pinnacle when trying to claim the title, not shorter. In the aftermath of the controversy, the main set of rules governing official titles was partially overhauled, and a number of buildings re-classified structural antenna as architectural details to boost their height rating (even though nothing was actually done to the building). Since the rules had allowed a building that looked shorter to say they were taller, newer buildings have had a focus on getting more than one of the height categories and tried to cater to popular perception rather than technicalities.

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