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The tallest buildings ever demolished in the world

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High rise buildings in densely populated areas pose a number of tricky challenges
Pic: Pixabay

The controlled demolition of Supertech’s Apex and Ceyane towers in Noida – said to be taller than Qutub Minar — using 3,700 kg of explosives was nothing less than an engineering marvel.

Previously the demolition of Meena Plaza in Abu Dhabi was mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest building to be demolished with explosives in less than 10 seconds.

Demolition of such high buildings in densely populated urban areas poses a number of tricky challenges because of likely damage to surrounding structures.

Pic: Pixabay

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Here is a list of the top 10 tallest buildings ever demolished all over the world for one reason or another:

AXA Tower, Singapore 

Height: 770 feet 

Floors: 52

Demolished:  2022-2023 (in progress)    

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Built in 1986, the AXA Tower — is the tallest cylindrical building in the world and one of the highest skyscrapers in Singapore. It will be the tallest building to be voluntarily demolished in the world. AXA Tower in Singapore’s financial hub has been closed to the public since May 2022 for demolition to make way for a 63-story skyscraper measuring up to 1.6 million square feet. Once complete the new building at 8 Shenton Way in Tanjong Pagar district could overtake the 932 feet tall Guoco Tower – currently the tallest building in Singapore. The new 63-storeyed building (1.6 million square feet in total space) with office, hotel, residential and retail space is the highest-ever skyscraper approved in Singapore. 33 percent of the building’s gross floor area will be reserved for 215 residential flats with sky terraces, 59 percent will be earmarked for commercial use, while the rest will be set aside for hotels (11 suites over a total of 6,775 sq m), balconies, indoor recreational space, and rooftop. The mixed-use building being developed by a consortium led by Alibaba, and Perennial Holdings is expected to be ready by 2028. 

270 Park Avenue, New York

Height:   707 feet             

Floors:  52

Demolished:   2021

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The dismantling of 270 Park Avenue, once the tallest building in Manhattan, New York to make way for a new – 18-storeyed higher skyscraper and create extra office space for about 9,000 employees was the largest intentional demolition in history. It was the world’s tallest and largest building to be pulled down intentionally and also the third-tallest tower ever to be destroyed, after the collapse of the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001. It was nothing less than an engineering nightmare considering its proximity to Grand Central Station and location in one of the busiest business districts with numerous skyscrapers and high-density areas nearby on Madison Avenue, 48th Street, Park Avenue, and 47th Street. As a result, it could not be demolished by implosion or wrecking ball. The only option left was to deconstruct the building floor by floor in pieces. The entire process lasted almost three years from 2019 to 2021. A new 1,425-foot-tall skyscraper being constructed on the same site is expected to be completed by 2025. According to the New York Times, the new building would have around 70 stories. Once complete, the new 2.5-million-square-foot building may well be one of the tallest structures in New York City and the tallest office building by roof height.

Singer Building, New York           

Height:  612 feet             

Floors:  47

Demolished: 1968

There was a time when the Singer Tower was one of the most iconic buildings and a prominent landmark in New York City in the mid-sixties. It had 16 elevators and 410,000 square feet of office space. In its heydays, the only other structure taller than it in the world was the Eiffel Tower and people had to pay a fee of 50 cents to enjoy the view from the observation deck on its 40th floor. It was the tallest building in the world at the time of its completion for eighteen months from 1908 to 1909 until it lost the title to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower and the world’s tallest building ever to be destroyed at the time of its demolition. It was torn down in 1968, together with the adjacent City Investing Building, and reappeared over the horizon on the same site as 54-storeyed One Liberty Plaza. The demolition commenced in August 1967 and was completed the following year. Even 60 years later the Singer Building remained the tallest building to have been demolished till 270 Park Avenue was demolished between 2018 – 2021 to make way for the new 1,425-foot JPMorgan Chase Building (currently under construction).

CPF Building, Singapore              

Height:   561 feet             

Floors:  46

Demolished:   2017

The Central Provident Fund Board (CPF) building located on 79 Robinson Road in the central business district of Singapore is both the tallest high-rise skyscraper ever voluntarily demolished outside New York City as well as the tallest building ever demolished and replaced by a shorter building. The building constructed in 1976 was torn down 41 years later in 2017. The last tenants moved out on 20 February 2017 to make way for a 29-storeyed office building.

Meena Plaza, Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)             

Height:   553 feet             

Floors:  144

Demolished:   2020

On 27 November 2020, a new Guinness World Record was created when Meena Plaza 553-foot-tall skyscraper in Abu Dhabi covering a total built-up area of 246,000 sqm was razed to the ground in just 10 seconds. The exercise involving the use of 6000 kg plastic explosives and a detonator cord completely changed the skyline of Abu Dhabi. This was the tallest building to be demolished with explosives. The main reason behind the tearing down of the Mina Plaza Towers was said to be part of a comprehensive renovation plan to redevelop and transform it into a new tourist, commercial and residential hub. The demolition was carried out by Modon Properties and using stable non-primary explosives, placed in 18,000 drill holes in the building. All four towers of Mina Plaza were successfully demolished in a series of implosions at 0.25-second intervals of over eight seconds. As a precautionary measure, an area of around 1,100m radii from the center was cordoned off and all people were sifted out of the exclusion zone before the implosion. This apart, the nearby buildings were wrapped using geotextile and wire mesh to prevent accidental damage.

Fuji Xerox Towers, Singapore   

Height: 541 feet             

Floors:  38

Demolished: 2022 (in progress)

Fuji Xerox Towers previously called IBM Towers 10 min walk from Tanjong Pagar MRT station in downtown Singapore is in the process of being demolished and redeveloped into 51-storeyed mixed-use residential apartments, serviced apartments, and commercial areas.

Morrison Hotel, Chicago (United States)             

Height:   526 feet             

Floors:  45

Demolished:   1965

Known as the “Hotel of Perfect Service” — Morrison Hotel — in Chicago, Illinois completed in 1925 was demolished forty years later in 1965 to make room for the First National Bank now known as Bank One Plaza. Named after Orsemus Morrison, the first coroner in Chicago, who bought the site and built a three-story hotel with 21 rooms in 1860, it was one of the first hotels in those days to have a bathroom in every room. It was the first building outside New York to have more than 40 floors and the world’s tallest hotel for thirty years. One of the attractions of the hotel included an observation deck for visitors to view the city. Among those who stayed at the hotel included Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy as well as Vice-Presidents Barkley and Nixon. Boxer Jack Dempsey too was a frequent guest. At the time of its demolition in 1965, Morrison Hotel was still the tallest hotel in Chicago and the tallest building to be demolished anywhere in the world.

Deutsche Bank Building, New York (United States)

Height:   518 feet             

Floors:  39

Demolished:   2011

The Deutsche Bank Building was a 39-story office building located at 130 Liberty Street in Manhattan, New York close to the World Trade Towers. It was irreparably damaged when the falling south tower of the World Trade Centre ripped a 15-story gash into its structure on Sept. 11, 2001. The building was inundated by debris—comprising nearly 15,750 tons of concrete and 11,000 tons of steel, as well as toxic ash, dust, and smoke from the World Trade Center. Though the wreckage was eventually cleaned up, it was decided to take down the building and a black burial shroud was placed around the remains of the building. However, the demolition of the building kept getting delayed for over three years because the insurance companies – AXA and Allianz – were initially reluctant to bear the demolition costs during which the condition of the building deteriorated. This was followed up by a manual demolition process in which laborers went about smashing the concrete, cutting the steel beams, and lowering the debris to the ground floor by floor. It was a slow process as the workers took at least a week to demolish one floor.

The entire operation was carried out in phases. In the first phase, the demolition crew used jackhammers mounted on mechanical arms – to smash the floors into basketball-size chunks of concrete. Once the concrete was stripped away, ironsmiths moved in with scissor lifts and acetylene torches to cut the steel beams. The entire work area was surrounded by fire extinguishers and fire blankets to put out any flames from molten steel, or slag. The next phase of the schedule was to move the concrete blocks to the ground with the help of heavy-duty cranes and fill the basement cavity of the building.

UIC Building, Singapore               

Height:  499   feet            

Floors:   40

Demolished: 2013

The United Industrial Corporation (UIC) Building used to be an integral part of the Singapore skyline. At the time of its completion in 1973, the UIC Building was the tallest structure in Singapore and one of the tallest buildings in Southeast Asia. It retained the title of the tallest structure for only one year till the 531 feet United Overseas Bank Plaza Two was completed in 1974. Finally, at the time of its demolition in 2013, it ranked as the 39th tallest structure in Singapore. It was replaced by a new 778 feet high skyscraper known as V on Shenton (Five on Shenton) in 2017. Conveniently located in the heart of Singapore’s Central Business District and the Marina Bay Financial District, the V on Shenton is today home to a 23-storeyed office tower and a 54-storeyed residential tower.

One Meridian Plaza, Philadelphia (United States)

Height:   492 feet             

Floors:   38

Demolished: 1999

One Meridian Plaza was a high-rise office building in the central business district of Philadelphia. At the time of its completion, it was the tallest building in Philadelphia.  It was a rectangular building 243 feet long and 92 feet wide covering an area of 756,000 square feet with two helipads on the roof. One Meridian Plaza was seriously damaged in a fire in Feb 1991 that began on the 22nd floor and destroyed eight floors of the building as well as neighboring buildings in the Centre City.  Three firemen died in the fire that went out of control because of a lack of power due to damaged electrical cables and insufficient water pressure. For eight years thereafter, One Meridian Plaza remained unoccupied because of a dispute between the owners and the insurance company on the amount to be paid for repairs or demolition. Then there were the lawsuits—and more lawsuits that took years to settle. Finally, the building was declared a total loss and demolished in 1999 and ultra-luxurious Ritz-Carlton Residential condominiums and penthouses with an underground parking, fitness center, swimming pool, private garden, and public plaza came up in its place 10 years later costing anywhere between $550,000 to $14 million.

At the time of the demolition, it was the third tallest habitable building ever razed and the seventh ranking after the World Trade Center’s twin towers, Singer Building, the original Seven World Trade Center in New York; Morrison Hotel in Chicago; and 130 Liberty Street in New York. The top half of the building was damaged beyond repair. Hence the city tried to find a buyer who would renovate the first 19 floors, which suffered no fire damage, and then build a new top half. This attempt failed, hence the entire building was demolished. Another complexity faced was that One Meridian Plaza was physically attached to another skyscraper next to it and also across the street from city hall. Hence implosion could not be done without seriously damaging the surrounding structures. So it was decided to manually dismantle the building piece by piece.

Today, the 518 feet high 48-story skyscraper is the twelfth-tallest building in the city and the tallest residential tower in Philadelphia.

Apex Tower, Noida (India)

Height:  335 feet              

Floors:   32

Demolished:  Aug 2022

Pic: wikipedia

Apex Tower 32 floors (335 ft) and Ceyane Tower 29 floors (312 ft) referred to as Twin Towers, were incomplete residential buildings with 915 flats, 21 shops, and two basements. They were part of Supertech’s 48,263 square meters Emerald Court residential complex in Sector-93A, Noida and the tallest structures in India to be voluntarily demolished. The Supreme Court of India ordered their demolition in 2022.

It was quite a complicated task considering the size of the structures and the very little gap between the two towers and the surrounding residential complexes. At 2:30 pm on 28 August 2022, the towers were demolished. This was the first time when a more than 30-storeyed building was demolished in India. More than 3,500 kg of explosives were used to bring down the two towers in about 10 seconds.

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Neeraj Mahajan
Neeraj Mahajanhttps://n2erajmahajan.wordpress.com/
Neeraj Mahajan is a hard-core, creative and dynamic media professional with over 35 years of proven competence and 360 degree experience in print, electronic, web and mobile journalism. He is an eminent investigative journalist, out of the box thinker, and a hard-core reporter who is always hungry for facts. Neeraj has worked in all kinds of daily/weekly/broadsheet/tabloid newspapers, magazines and television channels like Star TV, BBC, Patriot, Sunday Observer, Sunday Mail, Network Magazine, Verdict, and Gfiles Magazine.


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