Editorial Feature

Building Taipei 101


Image Credit: KabirK/Shutterstock.com

Taipei 101, formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, is an iconic skyscraper located at Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan. It is the third tallest building in the world; however, it ranks first amongst the tallest and largest green buildings worldwide.

The building was officially ranked as the world's tallest from its completion in 2004 until the opening of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010. It stands 508 m (1,667 feet) tall. Taipei 101 stands as a symbol of modern Taiwan; it is a beautiful model of ancient motifs and symbolism coupled with modern techniques and materials.

Designing Taipei 101

Taipei 101 was designed by C.Y. Lee & partners, while the construction was primarily handled by KTRT Joint Venture. The Taipei Financial Center Corporation (TFCC)—who own Taipei 101— transferred the entire construction authority to Samsung C&T Corporation to expedite the process.

The magnificent design of Taipei 101 was inspired by traditional Chinese architecture to resemble a pagoda. The building design was also inspired by the bamboo plant, which stands as a symbol of strength, resilience, and elegance.

The Structure of Taipei 101

Taipei 101 comprises 101 floors above ground and five floors underground. The design specifications are based on the number "8", which is considered as an auspicious number in traditional Chinese culture; hence, the tower has eight upward-flaring sections that are supported by eight large columns.

The Oriental theme is enhanced by the curled ruyi figures that appear throughout the structure as a design motif. The ruyi is an ancient symbol associated with heavenly clouds, and it reflects healing, protection, and fulfillment.

Green Credentials of Taipei 101

Taipei 101 is not just a spectacular structure, but also an environmentally-friendly one. It has been awarded the Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, a globally recognized green building ranking system of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), thus bestowing the skyscraper the credit of being the tallest eco-friendly building in the world.

In 2011, the structure achieved an annual saving of 14.4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, which is equivalent to NT$36 million in expense savings. Additionally, the national standard of CO2 levels was set at 1,000 ppm; however, the design specification for the CO2 level in Taipei 101 is only 600 ppm which is almost half of the standard.

Interior Design of Taipei 101

Similar to its external features, the architectural style of Taipei 101’s interior areas are also based on Oriental revivalism. The tower has 61 elevators and 50 escalators. Each elevator has an aerodynamic body, pressurization, and emergency braking systems, and the world's first triple-stage anti-overshooting system. 

The elevator brakes are ceramic instead of the usual steel to provide greater efficiency (a feature that has been tested in high-performance cars). The elevator brakes are also of the best standards as these elevators are the fastest in the world, rising at 1010 meters per minute (60.48 km/h) and descending at 610 meters per minute (36.6 km/h). No wonder each elevator amounted to about US$2 million.

Accommodation at Taipei 101

Taipei 101 is primarily designed for commercial offices. The 7th floor is occupied by the Taiwan Stock Exchange. Meanwhile, the 101st floor houses a private VIP club called Summit 101. There is an observatory restaurant on floors 85 and 86. Taipei 101 offers two decks—the 89th floor is the indoor observation area, and the 91st floor is the outdoor observation deck. Both observation areas offer 360° views and attract thousands of visitors from around the world. The indoor observatory often hosts a series of exhibitions regularly. The tower also houses several other restaurants, parking spaces, shopping centers, and a clubhouse.

Aesthetic Components of Taipei 101

At night, Taipei takes on a new look and resembles a candle or torch due to the bright yellow light emanating from its pinnacle. This symbolizes the ideals of liberty and welcome. Every evening from 6 to 10, the towers light display one of the seven colors in the spectrum.

Construction of the Taipei 101

Taipei 101 began taking shape in 1999 and was completed in 2004. It is believed to have cost US$1.76 billion. The glass was supplied by Viracon, Inc., and the facade maintenance system supplier was CoxGomyl. The blue-green glass curtain walls, characteristic of Taipei 101, are double-paned and glazed, to provide heat and UV protection. The glass panes are sturdy and can block external heat by 50 percent.

The spire of the tower contains two 4.5-ton tuned mass dampers to minimize wind-induced fatigue. Thornton-Tomasetti Engineers, along with Evergreen Consulting Engineering, designed a circular 660-ton tuned mass damper that is contained within counter seismic and wind-induced movement. This damper is the largest and heaviest of its type in the world and is constructed from 41 steel plates. It is suspended from eight steel cables and rests on eight viscous dampers. It is designed so that it can move 5 feet laterally in any direction. This means that Taipei 101 can withstand typhoon winds and earthquake tremors, which are common in the Asia-Pacific region.

The foundation of Taipei 101 was reinforced using 380 piles driven 80 meters (262 ft) into the ground and extending as far as 30 meters (98 ft) into the bedrock. Each pile measures 1.5 meters (5 ft) in diameter and can bear a load of 1,000–1,320 tons.

Interesting Facts about the Taipei 101

Taipei 101 was the world's first tallest building to be completed in the 21st century. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat—an organization that certifies buildings as the "World’s Tallest"—has accepted that the Taipei 101 still holds a couple of world records in the height categories, including tallest to the structural top and tallest to the roof.

The New Year's Eve show in Taipei is hosted at the Taipei City Hall with a grand fireworks display surrounding the Taipei 101. The iconic 2012-2013 fireworks show was designed by a French pyrotechnics company called Groupe F. It featured 22,000 rockets launched to the symphony of Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird.

The Taipei 101 is also one of the most stable buildings in the world. Many design specifications, layout, and planning of the Taipei 101 were reviewed and approved by a Feng Shui master before the structure was built. This implies that cultural and traditionalistic Chinese elements were also considered in the construction of the skyscraper.

Lastly, Taipei 101 beat Malaysia’s Petronas Towers measuring 451.9 meters (1,483 ft) to become the tallest in the world in 2004. In 2010, Taipei 101’s record, in turn, was beaten by United Arab Emirates’ Burj Khalifa measuring 829.8 meters (2,722 ft).

Sources and Further Reading

This article was updated on 7th February, 2020.

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