Surely one of the architectural wonders of the modern world, Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Towers have been attracting droves of visitors to Malaysia since opening on August 28 1999.
Owned by Kuala Lumpur City Centre Holdings, Sendirian Berhad, the twin towers rise to a heady height of 452 metres above the capital city's bustling streets far below (that's the equivalent of 1,480 feet).
For a while the Petronas Towers were regarded as the world's tallest structure, surpassing Chicago's Sears Tower. Apparently it was never the original attention of the national oil company Petronas to set out to build something that would surpass the tall American building. When the original plans were blueprinted, the executives, architects and private investors where certainly in agreement over one aspect; they wished this new architectural feat to be more of a monument to the Malaysian capital's status. The Petronas Towers were intended to announce to the world that Kuala Lumpur had become one of Asia, and indeed, the globe's, most vibrant commercial and cultural metropolises.
When they were embarking on this ambitious project, one of the designs they considered was by the American architect and designer Cesar Pelli. His revolutionary method of creating a vast structure that would rise countless stories, while remaining firmly anchored, was audacious, yet simple. His ideas was to construct not one but two towers. The ratio of height to width (sometimes referred to as the slenderness ratio) would be 9.4.
The original remit of the building was that it should deliberately express, not only the degree of ambition in Malaysia, but also its proud history and cultural heritage. So when the architect set about planning his twin towers, from the outset he had a specific vision. The construction should be far much more than towers of metal and glass, similar to those that rise above city centres right across the world. He wanted to incorporate the arabesques and repetitive geometrical patterns that are so prevalent in Muslim architecture.
One of his most obvious reference points alluding to Malaysia's Islamic background was to create an eight-point star, formed by intersecting squares. In designing the towers themselves he envisaged a series of pointed and curved bays that would form a traditional ‘scalloped' outer surface. The intention here was to recreate the appearance of an Islamic temple. (Perhaps an alternative colloquial term for his architectural masterpiece should really have been the ‘twin minarets'!)
While the overall structure consists of two separate towers, the singular most important aspect of the building is the fact that they are twin sections of a single entity. That two towers were constructed was perhaps more of a practical design consideration. Nevertheless, the towers are also physically linked – by a bridge running across the 41st floor. What this does is create a magical gateway effect, giving the impression that the Petronas Tower is truly opening up Kuala Lumpur to its visitors.
One question asked by nervous visitors gazing down over Kuala Lumpur from the dizzying heights is exactly how safe is such a tall structure in the face of the elements? They can rest assured that the building is constructed from a particularly high-strength concrete, in order to reduce the effects of ‘sway'. There are massive concrete cores built into the towers – measuring 75 feet x 75 feet. Despite the slender appearance of the twins, their sophisticated design allows for upwards of 22,000 square feet of office space per floor (with no internal columns either).
The building even boasts glass and stainless steel sun shades. A building with its own sun-screening – how cool is that?
As well as offices, the building accommodates a shopping centre, a concert venue, plazas and a public park. The twin towers don't just sell the city of Kuala Lumpur to the rest of the world, they are virtually a city in their own right!