Skyscrapers and Skylines: The Case of China CTBUH Research

Jason Barr
Associate Professor
Rutgers University, Newark

Since 1978, when China instituted economic reforms, cities have embraced skyscraper construction. Despite the importance of these structures, little is understood about what has been driving their heights and frequencies. This presentation explored to what degree skyscraper construction patterns represent rational responses to the demand for tall buildings versus political or sociological factors, such as to call attention to respective cities or raise revenue for municipal governments. The findings suggest that economic fundamentals (population and gross city products) are key drivers of skyscrapers. Evidence for political factors is mixed. Municipal fiscal situations do not seem to matter, but there is a negative correlation between the ages of municipal leaders and skyscraper construction, suggesting that younger leaders promote skyscrapers as a way to advance their careers. No evidence is found to support that cities engage in inter-city competition in the skyscraper market, but smaller cities build taller than predicted.

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