Merdeka 118: World’s second tallest building tops out in Malaysia

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

The spire of a soaring 118-story skyscraper has topped out at over 2,227 feet above Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Set to become the world’s second tallest building upon its completion next year, Merdeka 118 now stands higher than China’s 2,073-foot Shanghai Tower and is dwarfed only by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

At a ceremony marking the spire’s completion on Tuesday, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob described the project as an “iconic tower for the future.”

“This is not only a great achievement in the field of engineering,” he told reporters. “But it also further strengthens Malaysia’s position as a modern and developed country.”
A digital rendering shows how the tower will look upon its completion in late 2022.

A digital rendering shows how the tower will look upon its completion in late 2022. Credit: Fender Katsalidis

Comprising 3.1 million square feet of floor space, more than half of which will be offered as offices, the tower will also house a mall, a mosque, a Park Hyatt hotel and Southeast Asia’s highest observation deck. The wider four-acre site will also contain public spaces and a park at ground level.

Set in a historic part of Kuala Lumpur, the skyscraper overlooks the Stadium Merdeka, where former leader Tunku Abdul Rahman declared Malaysian independence in 1957. Ismail Sabri, who was named prime minister in August, said on Tuesday that the sculptural design “reflects the image” of Rahman famously raising his hand to shout “merdeka!” (Malay for “independent!”) more than six decades ago.

Malysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob (center) at a ceremony marking the completion of the tower's spire.

Malysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob (center) at a ceremony marking the completion of the tower’s spire. Credit: Syaiful Redzuan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Australian architecture practice behind the project, Fender Katsalidis, said the triangular glass planes on the building’s facade were inspired by patterns found in Malaysian arts and crafts. The design also “symbolically (represents) the rich cultural mix that defines the people of the country,” the firm said in a press release.

In a statement, one of the company’s founding partners, Karl Fender, added that the building was designed to enrich “the social energy and cultural fabric of the city.”

“In addition, the achievement of creating the second tallest building in the world celebrates the years of planning, problem-solving, collaboration and human endeavor required to realize a building of this complexity,” he is quoted as saying. “Achieving this height milestone is a welcome bonus.”

Related video: A short history of the world’s tallest buildings

Announced in 2010, the project broke ground five years ago, despite concerns voiced by some local heritage campaigners about the impact it could have on the historic neighborhood.
Though the building was expected to open this year, work was temporarily halted in March 2020 when the Malaysian government introduced strict lockdown measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.
Kuala Lumpur’s skyline has been transformed by skyscrapers in recent decades, and the Malaysian capital is now the 13th tallest city in the world, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. The 1,483-foot Petronas Towers stood as the world’s tallest buildings between 1998 and 2004, when they were surpassed by Taiwan’s Taipei 101.
In 2019, the 106-story Exchange 106 became Kuala Lumpur’s — and Southeast Asia’s — then-tallest skyscraper, despite being embroiled in the 1MDB financial controversy that landed the country’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, with criminal charges including money laundering and abuse of power.

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