Wednesday, May 20, 2009

2IFC, Hong Kong, and global power manifested through buildings

Image of Hong Kong at night. Note the tall IFC2 tower, the super tall skyscraper, on Hong Kong Island.Dear Gentle Reader,

Welcome back. Again.

It's gratifying to see you after a month-long interregnum.

On Monday, I provided documentary evidence that Batman was in Hong Kong.

Today, I look more closely at that documentary evidence. 

Image of the promotional poster for the 'The Dark Night', 2008, with Christian Bale as Batman.
See that building rising up to the left of Batman? 

The one in the mid ground of the Batman photo? 

That building is the imposing, César Pelli designed, 415.8 m (with radio antenna)(1364.2 feet) tall 2IFC (International Finance Centre, Tower Two).

Image of 2IFC, Two International Finance Centre, in Hong Kong.
Strangely, 2IFC is usually pronounced IFC Two... Don't ask me why.

In fairness to other buildings around the world striving to be tall and to be counted, the architectural height, the height without aerials or lightning conductors, of 2IFC is only 406.9m (1335 feet). 

That still makes 2IFC the tallest building, currently, in Hong Kong, and the eighth tallest building in the world. 

When the Burj Dubai is finished in a couple of months, 2IFC will drop to being the ninth tallest building in the world.

On a Batman-related aside, 2IFC is the same building that Batman broke into in "The Dark Knight".

It is also the building that Batman is standing in in the promotional picture, shown below for "The Dark Knight".

Finally, and paradoxically, it also the building visible in the distance, to the left of Batman, in the same promotional picture... 

Image of the promotional poster for the 'The Dark Night', 2008, with Christian Bale as Batman.
How Batman accomplishes this is unknown to your humble scribe.

Seeing the same building, in the distance, that Batman is standing in is proof of movie magic to your humble scribe.

(Your Hero could have explained this to your scribe, but he is strangely absent. He apparently absconded from his catnip rehab clinic and left a note saying that he is looking for a Miss Kitty. ?. Can anyone explain this?)

Image of 2IFC (International Finance Centre Two) on Hong Kong Island, seen from the water dwarfing the neighbouring buildings.
As you can see, 2IFC, with its lucky 88 floors (over twenty floors are double height for trading floors) and its 62 elevators, dominates the Hong Kong skyline.

Soon, the ICC (the International Commerce Centre) being built in Kowloon will surpass 2IFC (Two International Financial Centre) in height. 

But, ICC will be on Kowloon, facing 2IFC. 

2IFC and ICC staring at each may be an architectural, financial reminder of Scylla (Σκύλλα) and Charybdis (Χάρυβδις), the twin classical monsters perched, respectively, on a massive rock and a whirlpool on opposite sides of the tiny (as narrow as 3.1 km or 1.9 miles) Straight of Messina between Sicily and Calabria.

Scylla and Charybdis destroyed and devoured all the sailors who attempted to sail by them; woe to the financial peon who tries to get between 2IFC and ICC.

Actually, a posting on the oligopolistic nature of Hong Kong might be interesting, at some point in time...

But, back to 2IFC.

When I researched the global statistics on 2IFC, and other buildings for comparison, I discovered something interesting.

With status comes competition. 

OK. That's obvious.

But, fights for building the tallest and highest have yielded different definitions and ways of measurement.

There are now four categories of potential highest buildings, or, more properly, structures. 

For reference these are: 

(1) structures (supported) is the category for structures built solely in the air (as opposed to rising out of the sea), and these structures can be supported by cables or by guy-wires, as many radio aerial structures are--these structures are measured by pinnacle height, or the maximum built height, for measuring and ranking purposes; 

(2) structures (media-supported) is for structures like oil platforms that are partially supported by mediums like mater--these, again use pinnacle height; 

(3) free standing structures (so no guy-wires)-- are for non-inhabitable buildings like the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, and, again, pinnacle height is used; and

(4) buildings-- are for inhabitable structures and these are measured and ranked using architectural height, id est the height of the habitable building, not the pinnacle height.

What your humble scribe thought interesting was not the four categories of structures and how they were measured. 

Once the categories were defined, I was only interesting in determining the forty tallest buildings within category four.

What is interesting is the geographical and chronological distribution of the forty tallest buildings in the world.

11 of the 40 are in the United States of America (USA).
8 of the 40 are in the People's Republic of China (China).
7 of the 40 are in the United Arab Emirates (UAE, specifically Dubai).
6 of the 40 are in Hong Kong.
3 of the 40 are in Malaysia.
2 of the 40 are in Taiwan.

The remaining 3 structures are in Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and Australia.

Of course, China officially controls Hong Kong, although Hong Kong still gets to assert limited aspects of sovereignty until 2047. 

That means that my geographical listing of the 40 tallest buildings could be modified to read:

14 in China;
11 in the USA;
7 in the UAE; and
8 elsewhere.

Or, we could slice the tallest buildings in the world regionally.

20 of the 40 are in Asia.
11 of the 40 are in North America (OK, the USA).
8 of the 40 are in the Middle East.
1 of the 40 is in Oceania (Australia).

It is interesting to note that 0 of the 40 tallest buildings in the world are in the old world, altus mundi, Europe. 

The Russians were planning to build a contender in Moscow, but it has been scrapped due to the global financial meltdown.

Also, 0 of the 40 tallest buildings in the world are in the cradle of the world, Africa, where we all come from, which ought to surprise nobody given the paucity of global wealth located within Africa.

But, we could also look at this list historically or chronologically.

First, a tiny aside.

The original, architectural, land-based use of the word skyscraper, when the term shifted in use from the tall masts on ocean-going sailing ships to tall buildings, was for the Home Insurance Building completed in 1885 in Chicago. 

The Home Insurance Building was a whopping ten stories tall. (It is no longer standing and is certainly not on the list of forty, which is why it was an aside.) 

I will deal only with the standing buildings that still make up the 40 tallest buildings in the world, although I will include the  World Trade Center in the historical list for historical perspective and analysis.

So, onwards to the chronological groupings of buildings...
Even though the Great Depression started in 1929, the earliest two buildings on the list are the Chrysler Building, built in 1930, and the Empire State Building, built in 1931, both in New York.

The Great Depression saw a boom in road, reservoir, and dam construction in the USA through federal legislation authorized by President Hoover's (Hoover's presidency was 1929-1933) Emergency Relief and Construction Act, 1932, and then further stimulus brought in by FDR (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) (FDR's presidency was 1933-1945, four terms!) as part of FDR's New Deal.

The Great Depression did not see, however, a boom or even a continuation of the building of skyscrapers.

The skyscraper building lull, after the Great Depression, lasted almost forty years, until 1969.

1969 saw Chicago's explosion resume, after the 1885 Home Insurance Building, with an order of magnitude gain over the first skyscraper the world had seen. 

1969 heralded the 100 storey John Hancock Centre measuring up at 344 m or 1129 feet. 

1970 and 1971 saw the World Trade Centre's Twin Towers completed, although they are not counted in the top forty because they are no longer standing.

1973 saw Chicago's Aon Centre and, in 1974, Chicago's Sears Tower being completed.

The next construction lull lasted 9 years until Houston's JP Morgan Chase Tower was completed in 1982.

1989 saw Chicago's AT&T Corporate Center completed as well as the US Bank Tower in Los Angeles.

Finally, 1992 saw Atlanta's Bank of America Plaza completed.

That marks the completion of the first 8 tallest buildings from my list of the 40 tallest buildings still standing.

It also marks 8 of the USA's 11 buildings in that list of 40 buildings.

1992 also saw the first non-American entry into the tallest building in the world.

The first non-America entry to the list of the 40 tallest buildings in the world was the topping out of the Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea, of all places.

31 of the 40 tallest buildings in the world were all completed in 1996 or later.

Of these 31 buildings, only 3 were built in the USA. 

Of those 31 buildings built in 1996 or later, 27 were built in Asia or in the Middle East.

Power is shifting.

It's visible.

And the very new world, or the very old, depending upon your perspective (modern financial clout versus a civilisation's age) is feeling pretty triumphal.

Image of fireworks against a backdrop of Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong Island, 2009.


The Weaver of Grass said...

Wow Chris - what a long post after your recess! I too hsve been in Canada and the States for a while, so it is nice to meet up again.

Heidelweiss said...

Power is shifting? Pfff! The reason Batman can stand in that building and be across town from it at the same time is because he's American (is he?). We're magical! Welcome back, I hope you accomplished what you needed to. I also hope Pommes returns quickly with his new girlfriend in tow.

debra said...

Holy skyscraper, Batman, that's one heck of post!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Is this the one where Christian Bale insisted on standing on the tower himself instead of the stuntman?

I like the recent Batman films, and reckon the music for Batman Begins is marvellous!

Glad you're back in 'Gotham' again Sepiru Chris!

Cloudia said...

pretty, distracting pics! thanx

murat11 said...

Welcome back, archivist of the spaces between and the places even further tween. I dig the way you build your own Jenga-tower of data to spring that nifty little (well, to the chauvinists of the western slopes, not so little) axis shift at the end. The little Robins of los estados unidos be quakin'...

At least somewhere in they sleep...

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Weaver of Grass,

Good to meet up, and welcome back to us both. I hope you have more energy from your away time than I have. I feel a bit spent and drained...

Dear Heidelweiss,

Well, not in the megalopolis of Salt Lake City, no... :)

I did get some work done. Now I want to sleep. As per Pommes, we are all getting anxious for his return... I'll give him your love when I see him.

Dear Debra,

Thanks, I hope.

Dear Raph,

I have absolutely no idea. I had to ask Regina who the actor was. I suspend my disbelief so thoroughly that I do not believe in actors, but Regina swears up and down that there are such things. And that people who die in movies don't have to have special payments made to their family. Seems fishy, to me. Maybe you can check that out in necktune's chariot...

Dear Cloudia,

I am betting you can use some distraction right now. We all send love, Cloudia, and condolences for your loss.

Dear Murat,

You always give me the giggles. Or the chills. I frequently don't know what to write when I read your poetry. So many allusions. I worry about missing some.

Seeing the puppet flics, I am sure that I am, no TV in 18 years, years and years out of North America, means that I miss out on many of the current pop culture allusions.

Thanks for the welcome back, maestro des mots.


murat11 said...

Giggle on, brother: no time or need for chills, unless you eatin' a fine paleta.

Those allusions are nuthin' but a breeze: feel the cool air.

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Murat,

I do and it is both bracing and fine. Better even than a mint julep in sterling silver vessel...