The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) has selected four high-rise marvels from Canada, China, the UK and the UAE as the best tall buildings in the world for 2013.

By category, the distinctive building winners included The Bow in Calgary, Canada (Americas); the CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, China (Asia & Australia); The Shard in London (Europe); and Sowwah Square, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (Middle East and Africa).

An independent industry panel selected the winners from over 60 submissions, with the buildings recognised for their “extraordinary contribution to the advancement of tall buildings and the urban environment, and for achieving sustainability at the broadest level.”

Projects must have been completed between Janurary 1, 2012 and October 1, 2013.

“The winners and finalists include some of the most striking buildings on the global landscape,” said jury chair and principal of Studio Gang Architects Jeanne Gang.

“They represent resolutions to a huge range of contemporary issues, from energy consumption to integration with the urban realm on the ground.”

Each of the four buildings make for distinctive additions to their cities’ skylines.

The Bow, Calgary, Canada

Foster+Partner’s The Bow is the tallest Canadian building outside of Toronto, standing 237 metres in height. It features a distinctive curved façade that was designed in response to climate analysis.

The structure’s diagonal vertical steel frame and glass façade support the convex side of the building, which reduces the impact of prevailing winds while its concave shape in its southwest orientation absorbs maximum sunlight, making the building highly efficient.

“The fact that The Bow is stunning as a form, but functions well from an environmental and urbanistic standpoint in a harsh climate makes it a standout project,” said juror and CTBUH executive director Antony Wood.

CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, China

CCTV Headquarters

CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, China

This non-conventional skyscraper by architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture features two tilting towers that meet at a 75-metre tall cantilever above an open centre.

The eye-catching 44-storey structure features a loop of six horizontal and vertical sections that make up the glass facade contributing to the visual aesthetic of the building.

“The CCTV building is the type of building that may not happen again,” said Gang.

“It is an incredible achievement. In terms of structural engineering and iconography; in some ways it is like the Eiffel Tower of our time.”

The Shard, London, Europe

the shard london

The Shard, London, Europe

Designer Renzo Piano describes his creation, The Shard, as a mixed-use “vertical” city.

The 310-metre building is located within the London Bridge Quarter Development amid 2,000 years of history, and is intended to help revitalise the commercial area.

“The Shard is an amazing accomplishment for integrating a tall building in a historic city center,” said juror Rick Fox, principal of CookFox Architects.

The slender, pinnacle-like structure features a complex glazing process applied to the 11,000 glass panes that make up the façade. The panes are intended to operate like mirrors, absorbing the sunlight to reflect the sky above with the visual aspects of the building changing according to the weather and seasons.

Sowwah Square, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Sowwah Square Abu Dhabi

Sowwah Square, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Sowwah Square is a 450,000 square metre office, retail and hotel development forming the commercial centre of Al Maryah Island.

Its prestigious waterfront location sees four glass enclosed commercial towers rise up 184 metres in height atop a two-level podium retail space. A double skin facade incorporates sustainable design through passive solar shading and active lighting control.

“Moving towards LEED Gold is challenging in this region, and I applaud the strategies implemented in Sowwah Square, including the use of an environmentally responsible, double-skin façade which positively contributes to the overall energy performance and thermal comfort around the building perimeter,” said awards juror Rober Okpala.

The four winners will now compete to secure the title for the overall Best Tall Building Worldwide, with an announcement to be made at the CTBUH 12th Annual Awards Ceremony and Dinner at the Illinois Institute of Technology on November 7 in the iconic Crown Hall in Chicago. In 2012, the coveted overall prize went to Doha Tower in Doha for its striking cylindrical façade.

The ceremony will also see the handing out of the Innovation Award and, for the first time, a new Tall Building 10 Year Award reflecting on buildings that have successfully performed through a variety of areas including urban realm and the environment over a decade.

The CTBUH board of trustees also awarded the Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Architebement Award to Henry Cobb, founding partner of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners with his list of tall building achievements including Hancock Place in Boston and the Library (US Bank) Tower in Los Angeles.

“Henry Cobb has demonstrated phenomenal leadership throughout his career, particularly on Hancock Place,” said CTBUH chairman Timothy Johnson.

“Cobb’s leadership in smoothing out the difficulties around Hancock Place set the standard for future retrofits and advocated for positive changes to building codes around tall buildings.”

The Fazlur R. Khan Lifetime Achievement Medal went to Clyde Baker, senior principal engineer at AECOM, who is responsible for the geotechnical engineering for seven of the 16 tallest buildings in the world, including a large number of the high rise buildings built in Chicago over the past 50 years.

“Clyde has contributed so much to our industry,” said CTBUH Trustee Bill Maibusch.

“He has touched a lot of projects and been instrumental in making those projects successful.”

The other finalists include:


  • Devon Energy Center, Oklahoma City and Tree House Residence Hall, Boston, USA


Asia & Australasia:

  • C&D International Tower, Xiamen, China
; Park Royal on Pickering, Singapore
; Pearl River Tower, Guangzhou, China
 and Sliced Porosity Block, Chengdu, China.


  • ADAC Headquarters, Munich, Germany
; New Babylon, The Hague, Netherlands
 and Tour Total, Berlin, Germany.

Middle East and Africa:

  • 6 Remez Tower, Tel Aviv, Israel
 and Gate Towers, Abu Dhabi, UAE.