Taipei101 The Tallest Building in the World

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Forget Mad Max, forget Bladerunner, forget The Matrix and all of the rest of those visions of a future of bombed out cities, leather-clad mutants and cyborgs on Harleys. I am looking at the REAL future, a tall, marble-floored tower of soft-spoken beings offering precious gifts of Gucci and Tiffany and YSL, every overpriced name brand on earth, in fact, and a grand piano that plays itself. A world sealed away from grit and random noise, stray animals and poor people.

The future is SHOPPING folks, and nothing demonstrates that more than the mall in Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world. No, this is not some Mall of America with a Gap, a Payless and a Bubba Gumps, Taipei 101 is a dream of being swaddled in high fashion of being psyched away from the nasty bits of real life.

Taipei 101 starts beneath street level with the more pedestrian brands, but as you ride the escalators, annoying ones that force you to walk through shopping areas to advance to the next floor, you increasingly up the brand ante. And, if you are able to ford your way to the fifth floor with your net worth in tact, there are decent restaurants and very good bookstore s plus base camp for an ascent to the top.

Taipei 101 has 101 stories. Only one building in Dubai is taller, but it won’t be finished until next year so Taipei 101 still officially tops them all. And it has the world’s fastest elevator at 37.5 miles per hour. I was waiting for it to start, then all of a sudden, after 37 seconds, the door opened on the 87th floor to an observation area. Here you can see Taipei and the surrounding mountains, that are often shrouded in smog. A free audio tour gives good explanations of what you are looking at. Rural Taiwan is beautiful, mountainous country. Taipei, however, suffers from the hodgepodge of construction of all Asian cities that grew too fast. But then, Taipei is a young city in a young country.

What was fascinating to me was the building itself. Taipei has typhoons and earthquakes every year. So how does the tallest building in the world survive. Part of the reason is a 730 ton weight, a tuned mass damper that hangs in the middle of the building. Its designers say this plump plumbob can reduce the tower’s movement 40 percent in a storm or earthquake.

Didn’t feel any swing and sway on this trip. And little vertigo as I sailed down through eighty some stories, and no shoppers remorse as I made my way back through the garden of costly delights to the reality of the street.

Not surprisingly, the design, supervised by Feng Shui masters, incorporates symbols of financial success. The 8 sections represent gold ingots, There are also 4 circles on each side of the building near The base, to represent coins. So…it is unabashedly a monument to money and shopping and squeaky clean lucre. But it is attractive, in its own way.

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