Saudi billionaire to build world's tallest tower

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Such projects have become synonymous with the region, at times masking underlying economic problems

Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has teamed up with the Bin Laden Group in a grandiose project to build the world's tallest tower in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, outdoing Dubai's Burj al Khalifa, the current titleholder.

Click HERE to view graphic (72k jpg)

The proposed skyscraper, the Kingdom Tower, will soar more than a kilometre into the sky and take five years to build. It is the latest in a long line of glitzy mega-projects in the oil-rich Gulf countries that are as much about national and personal prestige as they are about showcasing their economic clout.

The tower, which will include luxury apartments, offices and a shopping centre, is thought to be the brainchild of the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed, nephew of King Abdullah.

The prince, one of the world's wealthiest men, said yesterday that his company, Kingdom Holding Co, had signed a $1.2bn deal with the Bin Laden Co, a Saudi construction firm owned by the family of the slain terror chief Osama bin Laden, to build the tower on the outskirts of Jeddah.

The tower, designed by Chicago-based Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture, will if completed be the glimmering centrepiece of a $20bn new city that looks out over the Red Sea, as well as a prized trophy for its wealthy backers.

Currently, Dubai's Burj al Khalifa, which was completed last year, is the highest building in the world at 828m, with its nearest rival, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, lagging some way behind at 509m. The eventual height of the Saudi tower is expected to soar substantially higher than 1,000m, but its backers are cagey about the exact scope.

In recent years, the Gulf states have embraced ever more grandiose and ambitious ventures such as man-made islands and luxury housing developments, even as the West looks at years of austerity. Such "prestige projects" have become synonymous with the region, at times masking more serious underlying economic problems.

Dubai unveiled the $1.5bn Burj al Khalifa last January even as its financial and real-estate markets were crumbling. Just months before, it had been forced to borrow cash from neighbouring emirate Abu Dhabi to deal with its deepening debt problems. In the end, Dubai paid a steep price for the bailout, naming the tower in honour of the president of the UAE, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

For Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter of oil, the project will help the kingdom to diversify away from an energy-fuelled economy, putting Jeddah, the country's third-largest city, on the map, and encouraging much-needed investment. Amid uncertain economic climes, Prince Alwaleed said that the new project was intended to "send a message of strength".

"To a significant extent these types of projects are confidence and image-building measures," said Jarmo Kotilaine, chief economist at Jeddah-based National Commercial Bank. "They are used to enhance the identity of a city and to demonstrate a strong, booming economy."

But some question the purpose of continuing to build ever more elaborate skyscrapers in an era when architecture has evolved to allow designs that are arguably more interesting and innovative.

"It's a rather futile exercise to build taller and taller," said Rory Ocayto, deputy editor of Architects' Journal. "We know we can do it, but to what end?"

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture