World’s tallest building opens observatory

Agence France Presse

Taipei, January 19:

Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building which also has the world’s fastest elevators, opened its observatory to the public today six years after construction began.

Visitors took 37 seconds to reach the observatory on the 89th floor of the 508 metre tower in the elevators, which run from the fifth level at 1,014 metres per minute.

“I am very excited to witness this historical moment at Taipei 101,” said Liang Shih-tsao, who queued for about six hours to become the first visitor to take the elevator to the observation deck.

An estimated one million visitors a year will pay a $10.87 fee to visit the observatory, according to the developer, Taipei Financial Centre Corporation. The $1.8 billion 101-floor light green skyscraper, designed by Taiwanese architect CY Lee, resembles the unfolding of a flower’s petals or sections of a bamboo plant rising from the ground. About a third of its 198,000 square metres of office space has been let.

The skyscraper was unveiled last December 31, just five days after an earthquake off Indonesia measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale sent killer tsunamis across the Indian Ocean.

Seismologists said few buildings in the world could sustain such a powerful quake, which was the largest in four decades. “But the odds of such a killer quake hitting Taiwan are very low, given the fact that all the 42 active fault lines on the island are short,” said Kuo Kai-wen, head of the Seismology Centre.

When the island’s longest Chelungpu fault line measuring some 100 km ruptured in 1999, it touched off a 7.6 magnitude earthquake which killed some 2,400 people. But mindful of possible earthquake and typhoon hazards, designers said they have adopted extraordinarily high safety standards for Taipei 101. They have installed a 660 tonne “damper”, 5.5 metres in diameter, which is designed to reduce swaying in the event of strong winds or earthquakes. A five-storey shopping mall, attached to the main building and featuring brand-name fashion houses, opened in 2003.