Aug 14 2011

Beyond the Recession: Planning the World’s First Kilometer-high Super Tower

With the recent announcement (Wall Street Journal, 8/3/11; S. Said) of their new super tower, the Saudis reenforce a key global trend that noticed a few years ago: The increasing momentum of “early ebullience.”

The planned Saudi kilometer-high super tower will become the world’s tallest building (and tallest man-made structure) and dwarf the Burj Khalifa in Dubai by 564 feet (20%).

The lesson of the last 200 years is that widespread societal ebullience — usually triggered by a major economic boom (e.g., the 1960s JFK Boom) — is the fundamental driver of twice-per-century, transformative decades known as “Maslow Windows.”

Here at, ebullience is a technical term that indicates a very positive, somewhat irrational emotional state characterized by unusual confidence in the future.

In the 1960s Apollo program and Peace Corps of John F. Kennedy it was the ebullient feeling that we could do almost anything; … and about 200 years ago it began auspiciously with Jefferson, Napoleon, and Lewis & Clark.

The last Maslow Window featured the first man on the Moon, the Peace Corps, and the still-famous Camelot zeitgeist associated with JFK. The next one is anticipated by mid-decade, based on long-term indicators (multi-century GDP trajectories) and current global trends (e.g., the Panic of 2008 and great recession of 2008-).

Saudi Arabia’s planned super-tower is an impressive example of early ebullience because it looks beyond the recession to the completion of the world’s tallest building for a lot of money.

The planned tower will soar to 3,281 feet (1,000 meters) and will include a hotel, luxury condominiums and offices. It would dwarf the Burj Khalifa, which is 2,717 feet (828 meters), and would also be the world’s tallest man-made structure.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal announced the $ 1.23 B (USD) project that will be completed in 2016, shortly after the next Maslow Window is expected to open.

Is this really a lot of money in today’s world? Well if it were constructed in New York City, where building costs are higher, its price tag would exceed $ 5 B, which would make it comparable to the Panama Canal Expansion Project (another example of early ebullience) — just short of the cost of the original canal.

Although the world’s tallest buildings are usually not known for exceptional ROI — e.g., when it was #1, New York’s Empire State Building used to be known as the “Empty State Building” — the Saudi Prince sees ebullient global symbolism associated with his project:

Building this tower in Jeddah sends a financial and economic message that should not be ignored, It has a political depth to it to tell the world that we Saudis invest in our country.

And nobody has to hit Antony Wood, executive director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, with a Mack truck; he gets it:

The world’s tallest building has never been about making the maximum financial return. It’s about ego. It’s about attention. It’s about making a statement.

Just so no one is misled about the scale of early ebullience on display in Saudi Arabia today, consider their plans for the super tower. According to WSJ …

The Saudi project is designed to be the showpiece of Kingdom City, a 57-million-square-foot megadevelopment north of Jeddah. Overlooking the Red Sea, it is slated to cost $20 billion.

Twenty billion … Now you’re talking! That’s ebullience befitting the next Maslow Window!

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