CLOSE
iStock
iStock

10 Incredible Skyscraper Observation Decks You Can Visit

iStock
iStock

Whether you're a tourist in a foreign city or an adrenaline junkie, getting a bird's-eye view of a new town has never been easier. Architects have spent years reaching for the stars with their constructions, and the observation decks in these buildings provide stunningly beautiful views. Here are 10 observation decks you can visit in some of the world's most impressive buildings.

1. BURJ KHALIFA // DUBAI

THOMAS BUNTON VIA FLICKR // CC BY-NC 2.0

No trip to Dubai is complete without a visit to the Burj Khalifa. Towering over the city at 1823 feet, the Burj Khalifa’s observation deck is the world’s highest outdoor observatory. The building itself was built over six years and 22 million man-hours, and has six world records. It’s over 160 stories and not only is it the tallest building, but also the tallest free-standing structure in the world, with the tallest elevator. The building is home to the Armani Hotel Dubai, as well as corporate suites and residences.

2. CN TOWER // TORONTO

SEAN HILL VIA FLICKR // CC BY-SA 2.0

Named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in 1995 by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Toronto’s CN Tower is a telecommunications hub with many attractions for visitors. Its 335-foot steel broadcasting antenna makes it the tallest tower in the Western hemisphere, and it was the tallest free-standing structure for three decades after it was built in 1975. Glass elevators carry visitors to the 1136-foot observation deck in a swift 58 seconds where they can take in 100 mile views, including New York State and Niagara Falls. The CN Tower is also home to the world’s first glass floor—it's 1122 feet in the air, and became the inspiration for the Grand Canyon Skywalk and others.

3. EIFFEL TOWER // PARIS

iStock

The Eiffel Tower, once the tallest observation deck in the world when it surpassed Washington D.C.’s Washington Monument in 1889, has seven million visitors a year. (It remains the most visited monument that you have to pay for in the world.) Built by Gustave Eiffel to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, the structure features two restaurants, a champagne bar, and the famous 905-foot observation deck. And, if you are unsure if it should really be considered a skyscraper, it also houses a private apartment at the top that was used by Eiffel to entertain visitors like Thomas Edison.

4. EMPIRE STATE BUILDING // NEW YORK

iStock

It was once the tallest building (and is now the fifth tallest in the U.S.), and the Empire State Building continues to be one of the world’s great attractions. It's considered among the most romantic sites—up there with the Eiffel Tower in Paris—thanks to decades worth of films like An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle. There are two observation decks—one on the 102nd floor and the larger, more popular one on the 86thfloor—that have attracted millions of visitors to the National Historic Landmark. In fact, the Empire State Building makes more money as an attraction than it does in renting out its office spaces.

5. EUREKA TOWER // MELBOURNE

G BAYLISS VIA FLICKR // CC BY-NC 2.0

Australia’s tallest residential tower has 556 apartments, including an 84th floor penthouse, and Eureka Tower's Skydeck 88 is the highest vantage point in the Southern hemisphere. Built in four years, they have also added The Edge, a glass cube that hangs off the famous observation deck (at 935 feet) which looks opaque until guests walk out onto the floor and it becomes clear. You can also dine at Eureka 89—found on the building’s final story—while enjoying the 360-degree views.

6. INTERNATIONAL COMMERCE CENTER // HONG KONG

iStock

Hong Kong’s International Commerce Center is a hotel and office building with 108 stories. It is the tallest building in Hong Kong, and the seventh tallest in the world. Two floors beneath the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is Sky100, a 360-degree indoor observation deck that sits 1272 feet high on the 100th floor, offering stunning views of Victoria Harbour.

7. SHANGHAI TOWER // SHANGHAI

LAWRENCE WANG VIA FLICKR // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Shanghai Tower spirals over 2000 feet into the sky, making it the tallest building in Asia. And though the tower itself is the second tallest in the world only to the Burj Khalifa, its observation deck (which opened in July) is now the world’s tallest observation deck, clocking in at 6 meters higher than Dubai's masterpiece. Filled with restaurants, shops, offices, and hotels, the tower is 120 stories and features the world’s fastest elevators, which can zip tourists to the top at 40 miles per hour. And, as more construction is completed on it, the tower is certain to break more records, such as highest pool with a view, highest hotel lobby, and highest restaurant.

8. SKY TOWER // AUCKLAND

ROBIN DUCKER VIA FLICKR // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Auckland, New Zealand’s Sky Tower is a telecommunications and observation tower that provides FM radio and six television stations, and is a standout in the Auckland skyline. The building is part of the larger Skycity Auckland casino, is the tallest man-made structure in the Southern hemisphere, and is home to a 700-seat theater, revolving restaurant, two hotels, and over 20 bars and restaurants. Much like the Empire State Building, its LED lighting is changed in observance of holidays and it features two observation decks. The main observatory is 610 feet high and has a glass floor, and the SkyDeck sits just below the main antenna at 720 feet. From there you can take in the panoramic views up to 50 miles out, or watch daredevils base jump from SkyJump, a 630-foot drop!

9. SPACE NEEDLE // SEATTLE

iStock

In 1959, inspired by the Stuttgart Tower, Edward E. Carlson sketched out an image on a napkin of what would eventually become the Space Needle. Architect John Graham would later join the project, and the structure eventually resembled his idea of a flying saucer to fit with the 21st century theme for 1962’s World’s Fair. The tower, surprisingly, is not used for broadcasting purposes, but it has become an iconic piece of Seattle’s skyline, and its observation deck has views of Washington’s lush greenery, Mt. Rainier, and Elliott Bay, to name a few.

10. TOKYO SKYTREE // TOKYO

RANEKO VIA FLICKR // CC BY 2.0

Tokyo Skytree is the tallest communications tower in the world, reaching 2080 feet. Its height—634 meters—was specifically chosen because when the numbers are read in Japanese, it’s pronounced mu (6) sa (3) shi (4); from the observation decks, the old Musashi Province is visible, to remind visitors of the area’s history. There are two observatories: the Tembo Deck (1148 feet above the city) and Tembo Gallery, which has a glass Skywalk and sits 1476 feet high.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
arrow
architecture
Step Inside This Stunning, Nature-Inspired Art Gallery in Tulum, Mexico
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

Upon closer inspection, this building in Tulum, Mexico, doesn’t seem like a suitable place to house an art exhibit. Everything that makes it so visually striking—its curved walls, uneven floors, and lack of drab, white backgrounds—also makes it a challenge for curators.

But none of these factors deterred Santiago Rumney Guggenheim—the great-grandson of the late famed art collector and heiress Peggy Guggenheim—from christening the space an art gallery. And thus, IK LAB was born.

“We want to trigger the creative minds of artists to create for a completely different environment,” Rumney Guggenheim, the gallery’s director, tells Artsy. “We are challenging the artists to make work for a space that doesn’t have straight walls or floors—we don’t even have walls really, it’s more like shapes coming out of the floor. And the floor is hardly a floor.”

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

IK LAB was brought to life by Rumney Guggenheim and Jorge Eduardo Neira Sterkel, the founder of luxury resort Azulik. The two properties, which have a similar style of architecture, share a site near the Caribbean coast. IK LAB may be unconventional, but it certainly makes a statement. Its ceiling is composed of diagonal slats resembling the veins of a leaf, and a wavy wooden texture breaks up the monotony of concrete floors. Entry to the gallery is gained through a 13-foot-high glass door that’s shaped a little like a hobbit hole.

The gallery was also designed to be eco-conscious. The building is propped up on stilts, which not only lets wildlife pass underneath, but also gives guests a view overlooking the forest canopy. Many of the materials have been sourced from local jungles. Gallery organizers say the building is designed to induce a “meditative state,” and visitors are asked to go barefoot to foster a more sensory experience. (Be careful, though—you wouldn't want to trip on the uneven floor.)

The gallery's first exhibition, "Alignments," features the suspended sculptures of Artur Lescher, the perception-challenging works of Margo Trushina, and the geometrical pendulums of Tatiana Trouvé. One piece by Trouvé features 250 pendulums suspended from the gallery's domed ceiling. If you want to see this exhibit, be sure to get there before it ends in September.

[h/t Dezeen]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
architecture
Engineers Have Figured Out How the Leaning Tower of Pisa Withstands Earthquakes
iStock
iStock

Builders had barely finished the second floor of the Tower of Pisa when the structure started to tilt. Despite foundational issues, the project was completed, and eight centuries and at least four major earthquakes later, the precarious landmark remains standing. Now, a team of engineers from the University of Bristol and other institutions claims to have finally solved the mystery behind its endurance.

Pisa is located between the Arno and Serchio rivers, and the city's iconic tower was built on soft ground consisting largely of clay, shells, and fine sand. The unstable foundation meant the tower had been sinking little by little until 2008, when construction workers removed 70 metric tons of soil to stabilize the site. Today it leans at a 4-degree angle—about 13 feet past perfectly vertical.

Now researchers say that the dirt responsible for the tower's lean also played a vital role in its survival. Their study, which will be presented at this year's European Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Greece, shows that the combination of the tall, stiff tower with the soft soil produced an effect known as dynamic soil-structure interaction, or DSSI. During an earthquake, the tower doesn't move and shake with the earth the same way it would with a firmer, more stable foundation. According to the engineers, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the world's best example of the effects of DSSI.

"Ironically, the very same soil that caused the leaning instability and brought the tower to the verge of collapse can be credited for helping it survive these seismic events," study co-author George Mylonakis said in a statement.

The tower's earthquake-proof foundation was an accident, but engineers are interested in intentionally incorporating the principles of DSSI into their structures—as long as they can keep them upright at the same time.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios