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Friday, September 30, 2016

The skyscraper curse


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is going through financial convulsions as the oil price keeps dropping but that's not stopping them from building what will become the world's tallest building, the Jeddah Tower, which confirms once again what the economist Andrew Lawrence called "the skyscraper curse" when noting that the construction of record-breaking skyscrapers often coincided with economic downturns.

It is being constructed at a preliminary cost of $1.23 billion and will be the centerpiece of a $20 billion proposed development known as Jeddah Economic City that will be located along the Red Sea on the north side of Jeddah. If completed as planned, the Jeddah Tower will reach unprecedented heights, becoming the tallest building in the world, as well as the first structure to reach the one-kilometre-high mark.

It will have 58 lifts, including four of the world’s fastest “double-deckers” travelling at up to 10 metres per second, and some single-deck lifts that travel even faster and can induce bladder problems (I know I'd be pissing myself going up 200-odd floors! ☺).

I hope they won't forget to instal separate lifts for women because I remember from my time in Jeddah in the early 80s when the city's skyline was dominated by a wall of apartment blocks which had already stood empty for years. Why? Because Saudi men refuse to be in the same lift with women. Goats yes; women no!

No separate lifts for women and Jeddah Tower may yet become another Ozymandias’s ruin: “Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare / The lone and level sands stretch far away” - unless, of course, women are expected to take the stairs.