America’s Empire State Building and the Sears Tower were, at different times, the tallest buildings in the world. But they’ve been eclipsed by some truly giant structures. Engineering tools and building capabilities have come a long way in the last couple of decades, as buildings continue to reach ever-skyward at a rapid pace.



That doesn’t diminish the importance of those early skyscrapers, though. The first such building was erected in Chicago in 1885.

Called The Home Insurance Building, it was held together using a then-innovative steel frame and stood 10 stories tall (although two more were added in 1890). The landmark was brought down in 1931 and replaced by an even taller structure.

Although it’s long gone, The Home Insurance Building and other early towers like it taught architects and structural engineers a thing or two about protecting skyscrapers from elements like wind and lightning, as well as elevator construction, plumbing and electricity.

The current tallest buildings in the world have these earlier ones to thank for their current status. Here are the top seven in reverse order:


7. One World Trade Center
The 9/11 Memorial (front) and One World Trade Center form an impressive contrast in lower Manhattan. The building is 1,776 feet, a nod to the year the U.S. was founded.

The creation of One World Trade Center occurred after the World Trade Center “Twin Towers” tragically fell during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The new structure opened to the public in 2014 and is the tallest building in North America, standing 1,776 feet (541.3 meters) in height, although 408 feet of that belongs to its spire. Some people thought it was controversial to count the spire in determining the building height.

One World Trade Center has 3 million square feet (278,709 square meters) of office space, a 55-foot (17-meter) high office lobby with extra-thick concrete walls for security, plus shops and restaurants. The World Trade Center, which comprises seven buildings including the one we’re highlighting, is also the site of the national memorial to those killed on 9/11.


6. Lotte World Tower

This megastructure might be the most entertaining on our list, as it boasts not only an indoor theme park and multiple theaters but also an outdoor park and a Korean folk museum.

At 123 floors, Lotte World Tower, which is located in Seoul’s Songpa District, is South Korea’s tallest (1,819 feet or 554 meters). Roughly 13 million visitors flock to the site every year to enjoy its exceptional shopping, dining and views. Others take in the artistry inherent in the building itself, thanks to its 42,000 glass windows, many of which are curved for sheer aesthetic effect. It was completed in 2017.