One would think that the pandemic and the flexible-work policies that many companies have since adopted would have dampened enthusiasm for building tall. But, globally at least, tall-building development is moving apace. According to a recent report by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), in 2023, 176 buildings of at least 200 meters (656 feet) in height were completed worldwide, surpassing the previous record of 163 such completions set in 2018. “This reflects the resumption of projects started before the global Covid outbreak, which were temporarily halted or delayed by the ensuing material shortages, inflation increases, and other factors—but there is definitely upward momentum in the field,” says CTBUH CEO Javier Quintana de Uña. The council predicts that the trend will continue, with between 150 and 190 200-meter-plus towers reaching completion in 2024.

The tallest building finished in 2023 was Merdeka 118, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Officially opened in early January of this year, the 118-story, 2,227-foot-tall tower is now the world’s second-tallest building. It is 490 feet shorter than the record holder, SOM’s 163-story Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, completed in 2010, and 154 feet taller than the tower now in third place, Gensler’s 128-story Shanghai Tower (2015).

The form of the faceted Merdeka 118, with its off-center spire, was inspired by the outstretched-hand gesture made by Malaysia’s first prime minister when he declared the country’s independence in 1957, according to Melbourne-based Karl Fender, founding partner of Fender Katsalidis, the tower’s architect. The building houses 83 floors of offices, including space for its developer—the Malaysian asset-management group PNB—a hotel and a skydeck. The podium, which is still under construction, will include a shopping mall and a conference center. Three shorter residential towers will rise from it.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, there soon could be activity once again on the site of the Jeddah Tower, which is planned to be more than one kilometer (3,280 feet) tall. The project, formerly known as the Kingdom Tower, and designed by Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG), started construction in 2013 and was on track to steal the “tallest” crown from the Burj Khalifa, which Smith was in charge of while a partner at SOM. But construction stalled in 2018 at around 60 stories, after the arrest of Bakr bin Laden, then chairman of Saudi Binladin Group, the tower’s contractor. Now, though, the developer, the Jeddah Economic Company (JEC), says it has invited construction companies to submit new bids for finishing the building, with a contract award expected this spring.

The design—a three-lobed shaft that gradually tapers to a shard-like spire—remains unchanged from the original scheme, according to the developer and the architects, as does its program, which includes a hotel, condominiums and rental apartments, office space, and the world’s highest observatory. However, JEC and AS+GG say that they do plan updates to some materials and systems to take advantage of technological improvements since construction first began more than a decade ago. Completion is expected in four to five years.