The Tall Tower project

While there is no clear height limit set on a structure being classified as a skyscraper… there should be. Science-fiction author Neal Stephenson plans to develop a 20-kilometre tall structure to launch rockets into space. If built, we’re pretty sure the high-rise deserves to be in a class of its own.

The project, known simply as the “Tall Tower project”, is part of Project Hieroglyph, a research program that’s based out of Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. Here, Stephenson teamed up with scientists, engineers and other sci-fi writers to think up technological innovations that are futuristic, but not entirely far-fetched.

This sky-high edifice idea launched when Stephenson posed the question: “how tall can we build something?” Turns out, pretty tall. From there the team discovered that it’s possible to construct a 20-kilometre building using high-grade steel, and wind permitting.

“In a windless environment making a structure that tall would almost be trivial. But when you build something that is going to poke up through and get hit by the jet stream from time to time, then it becomes shockingly much more difficult,” Stephenson told the BBC.

Just to shed some dizzying perspective, the height of the structure is equivalent to 45 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of one another. Or better yet, it’s taller than two of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. That’s one way to make your head spin.

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is currently the tallest man-made building, standing at 830 metres. But the Tall Tower project isn’t just about breaking an existing record — Stephenson claims it’s also the cheapest way to send objects into space.

We just have one question: can elevator technology keep up?

And while skyscrapers are generally praised for their height and scenic skyline views, other architects have opted for a different approach. Check out our post on South Korea’s first “invisible” tower here.

For more detail on the project, take a look at the videos below:

Photo: hieroglyph.asu.edu

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