A History of the Petronas Twin Towers in 60 Seconds

Photo of Sarah Anne Lee
21 June 2017

Currently the 12th tallest building(s) in the world and holding the record for world’s tallest twins, the Petronas Twin Towers are as iconic to Malaysia as the Eiffel Tower is to France.

Built on leftover land that was previously the Selangor Turf Club and repurposed to ease the increasingly heavy traffic in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas Twin Towers were a mega project commissioned by the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad. They symbolized Malaysia’s importance as a global power in the 21st century. Excavation of the construction site commenced on the 1st of March 1993, and the buildings were officially functional and ceremoniously opened by the Prime Minister on the 1st of August 1999.

The twins tower over Kuala Lumpur at an impressive 451.9 meters (1,482.6 feet) tall. They were designed by Argentine-American skyscraper specialist César Pelli, a world renowned architect who also designed New York City’s World Financial Center. The unique structure of the sisters is a blend of postmodern style, Pelli’s conception of diamonds glittering in the sun, and Islamic art motifs (such as the eight-pointed star base that signifies harmony and stability).

Unlike most skyscrapers, the towers are more concrete than steel, as concrete is a vastly cheaper and more familiar material to the contractors. The added weight of the concrete helped ground the tower foundations, resulting in effective sway reduction, which can be a problem over time for many tall buildings. Steel was used for mostly decorative purposes, aiding in the striking reflective visuals all around the towers.

The six-year long construction period was made more exciting, as two commissioned construction companies from Japan and South Korea were pitted in a race to build one 88-storey tower each. With an average of one floor being completed every four days, the South Korean team won by a whole week! This was despite starting a month later than the Japanese team. Due to their win, they received the honor of building the iconic Sky Bridge that links the two towers like a tendon.

Living up to their status as a global icon, the Petronas Twin Towers house an amazing collection of attractions. They also function as an office building and the headquarters for the PETRONAS oil and gas company.

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