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A stunning monument that is instantly recognizable even just by its silhouette, the Petronas Twin Towers are the most prominent features of Kuala Lumpur’s landscape. Alongside its sister skyscraper, the Kuala Lumpur Tower, the twins become an unforgettable landmark the moment Malaysia is introduced. Discover the history behind this national architectural behemoth and have fun filling in the details on your trip to the capital city of Malaysia.
As the 12th tallest skyscraper(s) in the world, and the only set of twins, the Petronas Towers are an international beacon of Malaysia, and to date, they remain the world’s tallest twin towers.
Towering over the rest of Kuala Lumpur at a staggering 451.9 meters (1,482.6 feet), these sisters were conceived by master architect Cesar Pelli. Malaysia’s fourth prime minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, commissioned them to be a symbol of Malaysia’s modern urbanization and as an internationally recognized 21st-century icon.
Inspired by Pelli’s vision of glittering diamonds in the sun, Islamic art motifs were incorporated into the building’s design, giving them their distinct eight-pointed star floor base. In Islam, Malaysia’s national religion, the overlapping squares forming the star symbolize unity within unity, signifying stability and harmony through rational and equal lines.
Its interior designs are strongly based on Malaysian culture, drawing patterns from songket cloth weaving, East Malaysian hardwood carving motifs and bertam palm wall matting, known for the special repetitive triangular shapes popular in Southeast Asian culture.
The construction history of the twin towers is fascinating, to say the least. The complete construction of the buildings only took six years, 1993–99. This incredible feat was the result of a competition between two construction consortiums commissioned by Malaysia: one led by the Japanese Hazama Corporation and the other by the South Korean company, Samsung C&T Corporation.
Both companies, which completed an average of one floor in under four days, raced to win the rights to build the Sky Bridge, the link between both towers that serves as a tendon of sorts to keep the sisters from swaying independently too much during high winds. The South Koreans won a mind-blowing week ahead of their Japanese rivals, despite beginning their part of the construction almost a month behind.
Another architectural element worth mentioning is that unlike most skyscrapers which have steel structures, the Petronas Towers are composed mainly of concrete foundations, which was used in order to reduce the crazily high costs on importing steel from overseas. Not only were the Asian contractors more familiar with the material, but they also acknowledged the benefits of a high-strength concrete structure in tall buildings, noting that its weight would efficiently help with sway reduction.
The headquarters of Petronas, Malaysia’s oil and gas power company, the twin towers are also home to Suria KLCC, one of Malaysia’s best shopping malls; Aquaria KLCC, Malaysia’s finest oceanarium; and KLCC Park, an urban curated green-lung project for Kuala Lumpur’s health, complete with a Symphony Lake feature.
The towers themselves – or more specifically, the 41st and 42nd floors where the Sky Bridge is accessible and the 86th-floor observation deck, from where the whole of Kuala Lumpur can be seen – are open to a limited 800 visitors a day.
Visible from almost all the surrounding buildings, these twin towers are the highlight of the entire luxury quarter of the city. Be sure to drop by some of the high-rise restaurants to get the best viewing experience of these mega-beauties.