The biggest, fastest, and tallest creations of 2014

To build is human, but the drive to go further? That’s awe-inspiring.

by Kate Lunau

World records will fall in 2014 as architects, engineers, scientists, and construction workers build ferris wheels, skyscrapers, waterslides, cars, and telescopes that are bigger, taller and faster than anything that came before. Browse our interactive map, or scroll further, to read about next year’s most breathtaking human achievements.

The biggest Ferris wheel

Next year, Las Vegas tourists will be able to get a bird’s-eye view of the strip from 168 m up—riding on the High Roller, soon to be the world’s biggest “observation wheel,” dwarfing the London Eye (135 m) and the Singapore Flyer (165 m). With 28 glass-enclosed cabins that hold 40 people each—and weigh 20,000 kg apiece—it’s made with 3.3 million kg of steel. Other cities have plans for monster Ferris wheels of their own. When it’s complete, in 2016, the 190-m New York Wheel on Staten Island will become the world’s tallest, unless Dubai beats them to it. The proposed “Dubai Eye” is set to be 210 m tall—higher than the tallest building in Vancouver.

The tallest skyscraper

Dubai’s glittering Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. Yet its title might be usurped in 2014, if Chinese billionaire Zhang Yue has his way: He’s the force behind Sky City, an ambitious and mysterious project under way in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, which aims to surpass Dubai’s skyscraper by about 10 m. Zhang has promised Sky City will have schools, restaurants, cinemas, even a hospital and a retirement home. It’s scheduled to be done next year, though nobody seems to know if it will be done on time. “We’ve seen the same reports everyone else has seen,” says Daniel Safarik of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, which tracks tall buildings globally. “We haven’t been able to independently verify.”

Sky City or no, 2014 will be a banner year for skyscrapers. When it opens this year, New York’s One World Trade Center will surpass Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) as the tallest building in North America. Next year will also see the completion of Shanghai Tower, Safarik notes, although both these buildings, measuring 541 and 632 m respectively, are no match for the Burj Khalifa, an incredible 830 m in height. “Based on what we’ve seen, the projected next world’s tallest won’t come until 2019,” Safarik says. The Kingdom Tower, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, will stretch 1,000 m—a full kilometre—skyward.

The highest waterslide

The German word verrückt translates to “insane,” a fitting name for the world’s tallest waterslide, where riders strapped to a four-person raft will drop from a height greater than Niagara Falls. Opening in May 2014 at the Schlitterbahn waterpark, in Kansas City, the 17-storey waterslide required “a lot of new technology,” says spokesperson Winter Prosapio. Riders take one massive plummet and then, after a mere five-storey climb, plummet again. “We had to invent technology to blast riders up that five-storey hill,” she says. Verrückt claims the “world’s tallest” title from the Kilimanjaro waterslide, in Rio de Janeiro, 50 m high. (Prosapio won’t say exactly how tall Verrückt will be.) Verrückt riders will have a long time to contemplate the wet and wild ride before them: to board the monstrous waterslide, they must climb 264 stairs.

The fastest car

What will be the fastest street-legal car of 2014? In September, the Porsche 918 Spyder, a plug-in hybrid with two motors on its front and rear axles, set a new record at Germany’s famed Nürburgring track. It completed one 20.6-km lap in an incredible 6:57, slashing the previous record of 7:12—set by the 2010 Dodge Viper ACR. Some predict the Viper could return to the track this year to reclaim the title. The 2014 SRT Viper, with its powerful V-10 engine, retails for over $100,000, and even has a mini-map of the Nürburgring moulded into its interior.

The biggest telescope

In April, construction is set to begin on the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), which will be the biggest, most powerful optical telescope in the world. The TMT, which will sit near the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii, will allow astronomers to study planet and star formation, massive black holes, the birth of galaxies and even peer back in time to the edge of our observable universe. A joint project of the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, the University of California and the California Institute of Technology (with China, India and Japan as partners), the TMT’s already been ten years in the making, and should be complete within a decade. Compared to current Earth-based telescopes, its abilities will be astronomical: the biggest ones are now about 8-to-10 m in diameter, but the TMT will be triple that size. In telescopes, bigger is always better.

The biggest, fastest, and tallest creations of 2014

  1. Gain an insider’s perspective on the design of the Shanghai Tower, China’s tallest building, by watching “Inside Shanghai Tower, a new video by Nick Almasy. Watch the video, including an interview with Shanghai Tower Chief Architect Marshall Strabala on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79SMz-mKtgg

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