Kingdom Tower, slated to become the first skyscraper set to reach one kilometre height mark, broke ground in Saudi Arabia last month.

Designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG), Kingdom Tower will stand 172 metres taller than the current tallest building in the world, SOM’s Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The Burj Khalifa has held the world’s tallest building title since 2010, standing at 828 metres. Broad Group’s Sky City in Changsha, a prefabricated skyscraper, will top Burj Khalifa by 10 metres when completed this year.

Kingdom Tower

Kingdom Tower is phase one of a $20 billion waterfront precinct.

Architects are pushing height boundaries in skyscrapers, with the sky-high buildings delivering unparalleled views and bringing iconic status and economic benefits to their cities while supporting the environment with new technology designed to reduce energy and combat carbon emissions.

According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, Kingdom Tower will feature 167 floors – there are rumours it could be up to 200 – as well as 59 elevators, 530 apartments, 200 hotel rooms and 3,190 car spaces. Spanning 530,000 square metres, the skyscraper will also house a Four Seasons Hotel, “Class A” office space, luxury condominiums and the world’s highest observatory deck.

AS+GG are working in collaboration with His Highness, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and Jeddah Economic Company  to develop the tower, which the firm describes as “highly technological and distinctly organic.”

Kingdom Tower

The aerodynamic design reduces wind loads.

Kingdom Tower’s architectural aesthetic combines with engineering technology to take it past a kilometre in height.

“With its slender subtly asymmetrical massing, the tower evokes a bundle of leaves shooting up from the ground – a burst of new life that heralds more growth all around it,” the architects said. “The way the fronds sprout upward from the ground as single form, then start separating from each other at the top, is an analogy of new growth fused with technology.”

The skyscraper was designed with “tapered wings” that draw into its aerodynamic shape to reduce structural loading due to vortex shedding. The exterior wall will feature a high performance system that will will reduce thermal loads. Each of the building’s three sides also feature “a series of notches that create pockets of shadow that shield areas of the building from the sun and provide outdoor terraces with stunning views of Jeddah and the Red Sea.”

Kingdom Tower

The world’s highest observation deck.

With the tower’s height comes ease of access – and fast access at that. Kingdom Tower will feature one of the world’s most sophisticated elevator systems, with 59 elevators – 54 single-deck and five double-deck – along with 12 escalators. Elevators travelling to the highest observatory deck in the world will travel at a rate of 10 metres per second in both directions.

Kingdom Tower will also feature a sky terrace, approximately 30 metres in diameter at level 157 – a space intended for use by the penthouse floor.

The height brings safety challenges for workers working on the building pre and post completion according to Liz Richard, head engineer at Highwire, a height safety consultancy and supplier based in Manchester, UK.

“At a kilometre high, Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia will face immense challenges,” she told IJessica Hamzelou of New Scientist. “I imagine that, if you were to access the roof, you’d need to do so from a protected cradle attached to the top of the building that cannot be blown around or swung involuntarily.”

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

Kingdom Tower is the first phase of a larger $20 billion development known as Kingdom City. The 23-hectare waterfront area is designed to create a “cohesive and pedestrian-friendly setting” for the tower. The precinct surrounding the skyscraper will also feature a high end shopping mall and additional developments including housing, commercial, high desnity residencies, offices, two luxury hotels and open public spaces.

Work on the tower is slated to be complete in 2019.