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London office to smash skyscraper height record

A British practice is set to amaze the international architectural community by unveiling plans for the world's tallest building, the AJ can exclusively reveal.

London-based Eric Kuhne & Associates is in secret high-level talks with senior Kuwaiti government officials about plans for a tower over 1km high in the Middle Eastern country.

The next highest building in the pipeline is the Burj Dubai, SOM's tower, which is currently under construction. Its height is a closely guarded secret, but it is thought it will be between 700m and 800m when completed in 2008.

According to Kuhne, his 1,001m-tall tower will form the centrepiece of the new Madinat al Hareer, which translates as 'City of Silk', forming a 'surrogate capital for the Middle East' to house 700,000 people. The architect claims constructing the city - including four ports - would cost US$150 billion (£86 billion) and take 25 years.

The tower would blow apart current world records. The tallest building is currently Taipei 101 in Taiwan, a relatively meagre 509m high.

Details of the designs of Kuhne's building are shrouded in secrecy, but the AJ has learned that it will take literal inspiration from the Arabic vernacular, and will 'operate on the principle of seven vertical villages stretching into the sky'. Assuming its floors are a standard 4m high, the building would have some 250 storeys.

The concept for the new city, Kuhne told the government decision-makers, will combine Arabic philosophy, culture and politics for the first time, to attract interest from across the region. It is hoped that the proposals, when complete, will enable Kuwait to bid for the Olympic Games.

Kuhne, the designer of the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent - the largest shopping centre in Europe - is known to like excessive projects. His £350 million proposals for three towers in Jersey attracted local opposition for being 'vastly out of scale' with their surroundings ( Kuhne scheme for Jersey beset by problems).

Arup director Bob Lang said: 'The issues with buildings of this height now are the same as they were at the turn of the last century - how you move people up and down and how strong your materials are. If these criteria are fulfilled then there's no reason why you can't build super-high.'

by Rob Sharp

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