In 2014 Chinese & Emirate Cities Continue to Lead, while New York City Recovers Lost Ground Bad Data on the Internet
After a review of the 2005 ranking data, it was determined that two towers, the Al Fattan Towers, reported as completed in Dubai by December 31, 2005, were actually not finished until February 2006, resulting in incorrect scoring for Dubai for 2005 (now corrected). A broader review exposed additional bad data in a few of the cities ranked. Another major correction to the information we had was the removal of the Grand Duta Hyatt in Kuala Lumpur, a building still reported as completed in 2004 by various sources, but that was never actually built.

A subsequent investigation determined that many of the most respected websites and hard-copy sources publishing skyscraper and other building information had incorrect information, which was often repeated by different sources, or published data in an inconsistent manner.
For a century New York City stood as the World’s Tallest City by a wide margin, with its fellow American cities of Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles reigning alongside it unmoved for decades in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places respectively; and other American cities dominated the top 25 for just as long. In the 1990’s we started seeing the first signs of the disturbance of that order, which was then largely overturned in the first decade of the 21st century.

After the great reshuffle of 2011, the rankings of cities have only partially re-stabilized. Yet, for sure, gone are the days of stable rankings. In 2014 Asian cities again dominated in the construction of new skyscrapers, with the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) reporting that in 2014, 75% of all new skyscrapers 200 meters (656 feet) or taller were built in Asia. Over half (60%!) of the world's total of those buildings found in thirteen cities across China alone. This represents an accelaration of dominance compared to 2013 (51%) and 2012 (33.3%).
Verification Procedures
Our procedures now call for verification of the existence and completion of new buildings 200 meters (656 feet) high or higher not previously reviewed or documented, and for any new buildings in the cities already ranked in the top 25 that might change its CAHTT score. With the explosion of supertall skyscraper construction around the world , including in formerly obscure locations, this has become an increasingly complex job, as it is now common for cities not even ranked in one year to suddenly climb into the top 25 the next, requiring an ever-wider survey of potential World's Tallest Cities contenders. Our growing database of 2,000-plus buildings and towers includes the name, built date, roof and spire height, and existence documentation when deemed necessary. New buildings for which evidence of their completion cannot be found are excluded.
The Rise of the Beta Cities
It’s not just that more skyscrapers are being built than ever before, although that is certainly true at a record of 97 buildings of at least 656 feet (200m) having been reported completed by the CTBUH, with eight of those close to 1000 feet or more (304m). And it’s not just that the pace of new construction is accelerating, as it has dramatically since the middle of the aughts. What is more remarkable is that this decade's skyscraper construction, formerly concentrated in certain cities like Shanghai and Dubai, while still in high gear in those cities, is also scattered throughout the world in cities that are not so-called “Alpha” cities like Shanghai or even Dubai. Instead, cities hardly prominent on the world stage have followed Dubai’s lead, a city which itself was a village just sixty years ago, and have engaged in the construction of not one or two of their first true skyscrapers, but dozens at once, upending our rankings virtually overnight, like Busan, Doha, and Panama City.
The Data Collected and Tracked
In order to rank skyline heights, several methods were reviewed, and the following one was determined to reflect most closely what one would see with the naked eye if the city skylines were placed against each other; that is, which would appear taller. Other methods yielded similar results, indicating there would not be much difference in the rankings using other criteria, if the focus is on height.

For each city, a review of the tallest 25-30 buildings is conducted, depending on the level of new construction, to determine which buildings are new and which are complete, and to verify in which year they can start being ranked. Because some buildings will rank differently depending on the inclusion of their spire, some buildings may not be included in one calculated score of its city's top ten, but are included in another. This also occurs when including towers. To track any corrections to height information, and prevent duplication of data for the same building, alternative building names are tracked for each city's tallest buildings.
New York City Recovers Some
Lost Ground
In 2014 the long-awaited reconstruction of the World Trade Center 1 to reclaim the sky lost on September 11, 2001, came to its completion. After many delays, controversies and fighting among the various economic and political interests tied up with the reconstruction of the World Trade Center area in New York, what was for a time referred to as the new "Freedom Tower", finally completed its promise to reach a patriotic 1,776 feet into the air above Manhattan. Or did it? As we explain in our adjacent column on our Methodology, there was controversy over the question as to whether the WTC 1 tower really reached 1,776 feet, given the decision not to build the graceful 408-foot radome that was planned to enclose the antenna that sits on top of the WTC 1's rooftop, which itself rises to 1,368 feet. That rooftop, symbolically as well, is the same height as the taller of the lost two World Trade Center twin towers.

The CTBUH took up the question as to whether the antenna still qualified as a spire (and integral, planned part of the structure). It eventually decided that it did, though some (ourselves included) disagree with that decision. Either way, the completion of the new WTC 1 and the One57 building brought New York back up to 5th place in 2014, after dropping to 7th for 2013. The last time New York occupied 5th place was in 2009.
Calculation Method: The CAHTT Score
Three separate scores are compiled for each city: The sum of the heights of its ten tallest buildings up to the roof (spire not counted); the sum of the heights of its ten tallest buildings and towers, including the spires; and, the sum of the heights of its ten tallest towers and buildings (up to roof only). We do not consider the number of stories since they are not a good indicator of a building's actual height. The scores are added together and then divided by three.The result of this is to give more weight to actual floor space (100% value) than to spires (33% value) that are often little more than needles in the air, or towers that also do not occupy much space in the air (67% value).

We refer to this method as the Calculated Average Height of the Ten Tallest, or CAHTT.

In scoring we noted 'clumping' of scores, making ranking categories apparent, thus the tiers. Tier 1 are those five cities with skylines significantly higher than all others. The sub-categories of A and B note the clumping of the scores with Tier 1B cities' composite scores closely clump above 1000 in 2014, while Duba's score makes it distinctively higher than the rest, making it a 1A Tier. As skylines rise, the Tiers change. For example, Tier 2 cities' scores between 2000 closely clumped between 715 and 776. For 2011 the higher end of the range came to 907, but for 2014 it came down slighly as the gap between clumps shifted downward.

The survey reviews the statistics of over 2,000 buildings and towers in 40 cities, and does an annual review of a dozen more potential qualifiers for the top 25.
Latin America's Newest
Tallest Building in Chile
In other interesting developments, following a building spree in Panama City three years ago, Latin America added its tallest building in Santiago Chile, the Torre Costanera, at 300 meters (984 feet). Had this building been completed in 2000, it would have ranked as the 23rd tallest in the world. In 1990, it would have ranked 12th. But in 2014, it barely made the top 100, and will be out of the top 100 by the end of 2015.
The Emirates and the Saudis
Of course, we cannot omit Dubai and its fellow Emirates cities in this discussion. Dubai, having rapidly acended to becoming the World's Tallest City in 2010, has not stopped buidling, adding to its lead so that it nearest competitor, Hong Kong, is now a distant second, and has now been placed in a Tier all its own (see our adjacent column on our Methodoloy). Abu Dhabi has belatedly decided to join its cousin Dubai, becoming the world's 8th tallest city just four years after not ranking even in the top 25. Saudi Arabia has joined the race with its Clock Tower in Mecca, and is now embarked on building the next world's tallest building in Jeddah. In a strange twist, whereby the world's tallest buildings are usually still found among major skylines, both of these last locations have no other tall buildings of any kind.
The New York WTC 1 Antenna Spire
Controversy and the CTBUH Decision
In keeping with standard practice as established by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), antennas are not counted. However, the Ultrapolis Project has chosen to ignore the Counci's determination on the World Trade Center 1 antenna.

Due to the late decision to not build the radome spire planned to enclose the antenna mast of the WTC 1 building, a controversy ensued as to whether this would affect the official architectural height of the building, which was supposed to reach 1,776 feet with the radome. This was of a highly symbolic importance to the builders and the for the country, with 1776-foot height patriotically noting the year of the America's birth as a nation, this partly in response to the attack on America that destroyed the first two WTC towers. After much debate the CTBUH ruled the antenna counted as a spire. By that measure, the WTC 1 would currently rank as the 3rd tallest in the world (4th by the end of 2015). However, the Ultrapolis Project considers this a sentimental decision, and judges the remaining antenna mast as just the antenna that it is. As a consequence, all building rankings (we rank WTC 1 as 14th as of the end of 2014) , as well as New York City's CAHTT score and rankings based on that score, are affected.
American Cities Continue Exit
From Top 25
The 2011 CTBUH report points out that in 1990, the U.S. accounted for 66% of all the 200m+ buildings completed that year. In 2011, that number was 2.3%.

As recently as 2000, eleven American Cities were among the tallest 25, and four were in the top ten. With the departure in 2011 of Dallas and Philadelphia from the top 25, and Houston from the top ten, it is now five and two, respectively. By contrast, only four Chinese cities were in the top 25 in 2000, two of them in the top ten. By 2011, with a lot more competition, the Chinese had six and four respectively. Interestingly, New York City and Chicago account for almost all the skyscraper construction in the United States in the 21st Century, with New York City alone accounting for half, and Chicago for about 35%. The remaining cities are far too dispersed in their suburban sprawl to foster landmark urban construction.

Meanwhile, cities with names like Wuxi, Xiamen, and others most Westerners have never heard of will supplant the long-well known American cities in the top 25..
Discussion on Methods Used by Other Skyline-Ranking Websites
The above approach of course is not about determining which skyline is more aesthetic, or which appears more imposing when seen by itself, as other skyline ranking sites aim to do. It is merely an objective measurement of actual vertical dimension.

Some visitors have pointed out to us (some boosters of Hong Kong and some of New York City) that their city should be on top because their city has more tall buildings. The problem with the approach of counting buildings is that one is no longer measuring actual height, but quantity of buildings. Certainly, a larger quantity of buildings may make a skyline appear more impressive, even if all the buildings are less than 500 feet tall, but it does not make it taller. This is why sites such as rank Sao Paulo relatively high on their lists even though it has few buildings above 500 feet, and none above 1,000 feet. Those rankings do not focus solely on height (nor do they claim to) as we aim to do here.

Why this ranking? We believe it is one measure of the changing balance of power in our world.
New York's Skyline Still #1
Still, any visitor to any of the cities in these rankings will find that New York's skyline is still the most impressive to see, perhaps because of its vast number of truly great buildings built over a century of changing architectural styles - just as the city remains the most cosmopolitan and exciting city to visit in the world. In any case, as American cities recede in prominence in this realm, as they are in others, and Arabian and Chinese cities take their place, it will be interesting to discover how well the new skylines are maintained by their newly rich owners. Visitors to China may notice that skyscrapers that in the West would look new for decades already look weathered within only a few years of being built in China. Will they learn that these buildings require rigorous and constant maintenance, year after year? Or will we see structural incidents as they have in China with their gleaming bullet trains? We predict that after a few more mishaps, they will learn.
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World's Tallest Skylines - World's Tallest Cities - Tallest Skylines of the World - Tallest Cities of the World - Ultrapolis Project 2004-2015