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Top Skylines of The World

Home > Articles > The Original Skyline Ranking System

All my years in studying Urban Planning helped me grow a greater appreciation for the skyline of the big city. The downtown core of big cities across the world, are the cultural pulse and economic engines of urban regions where millions of people live. The skyline is the fingerprint of that city. All urban life begins each day and ends each night under the watch of the city's tallest skyscrapers and most grand architectural structures. So kick back and appreciate the view that they have to offer...

As Featured in Cram Magazine Issue 5

Ready to Explore The Top Skylines Of the World?!
World's Best Honorable Mentions (North) America's Best Of the Rest
#1 Hong Kong, China (75) #17 Sao Paolo, Brazil (57) #16 Pittsburgh, USA (57)
#2 Chicago, USA (73) #19 Guangzhou, China (56) #18 Dallas, USA (56)
#3 New York, USA (72) #22 Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (53) #20 Houston, USA (54)
#4 Shanghai, China (67) #23 Chongqing, China (53) #21 Atlanta, USA (54)
#5 Singapore, Singapore (67) #24 Melbourne, Australia (52) #25 Philadelphia, USA (52)
#6 Tokyo, Japan (66) #26 Johannesburg, S. Africa (52) #28 Panama City, Panama  (52)
#7 Toronto, Canada (63) #27 Osaka, Japan (52) #29 Miami, USA (51)
#8 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (61) #30 London, England (51) #31 Las Vegas, USA (51)
#9 Shenzhen, China (61) #35 Bangkok, Thailand (50) #32 Boston, USA (51)
#10 Seattle, USA (60) #38 Jakarta, Indonesia (50) #33 Minneapolis, USA (51)
#11 Dubai, Emirates or Arab (60) #39 Perth, Australia (50) #34 Los Angeles, USA (50)
#12 Seoul, South Korea (60) #40 Paris, France (50) #36 Calgary, Canada (50)
#13 Sydney, Australia (59) #41 Yokohama, Japan (50) #37 Montreal, Canada (50)
#14 San Francisco, USA (59) #42 Brisbane, Australia (50) #43 Vancouver, Canada (49)
#15 Frankfurt, Germany (57) #44 Auckland, New Zealand (49) #45 Mexico City, Mexico (49)

Method to this Madness?
Since skylines are mostly about aesthetic appeal and very subjective, how can I judge which skylines are the best? Well, there are some rigid criteria I've used for this list. So here is what they are in order.

  1. VVII: Visual Vertical Impact Index

  2. Height

  3. Density

  4. Style & Organization

  5. Feats & Marvels

  6. Uniqueness

  7. Surroundings & Topography

VVII: Visual Vertical Impact Index – This is the most important aspect of skyline. The city must have a man-made vertical set-up or design, visible against a natural horizon. The way this score is calculated is each skyline is scaled with one another using a straight on view (panoramic style), creating a silhouette. Although there is some subjectivity in the VVII measurement, it is a quantitative method. It does not only take into consideration height, but more so the visual impact against a horizon. Let’s examine an example for City A and City B (both of which are are real cities, by the way).

VVII for Cities' Skylines

Image Courtesy of CRAM http://www.Cram-Mag.com (Enlarge It)

Skyline A has a skyline that fills the vertical and horizontal horizon with a mountainous silhouette where as Skyline B can be described more as trolling hill with one major peak (the tall building on the right). Overall, the median perspective (based on 20 evenly spaced plots along each skyline) of the height and girth of the skyline plays relevance over strictly height (since Skyline B has the tallest tower). If the dotted line were a VVII score of 20 (or 200 meters, the maximum), then the VVII of Skyline A would be (12 VVII), greater than that of Skyline B (VVII 9). Wikipedia's defines a skyline as “the overall or partial view of a silhouette of a city's tall buildings and structures consisting of many skyscrapers in front of the heaven in the background. It can also be described as the artificial horizon that a city's overall structure creates". The VVII measures, that precisely. This is why a city such as Rome (a great city indeed) cannot be included in this list, as it's VVII would be very low, since the city is barely visible due to lack of height on a horizontal plane.

Height - Total height of the city's structures. Visit the World's Best Skylines by Egbert Gramsbergen and Paul Kazmierczak to get a objective ranking of skylines based on building heights. Also see the ultrapolisproject.com - World's Tallest City Web Page

Density - Not the population, but rather the density of the skyline. This is done by measure 20 points in the skylines silhouette (see VVII) and creating a "gap" analysis of the skyline.

Style/Organization - This is a more subjective area. However, polls and preferences on major architectural sites gives us an accurate indication of this. Polls taken on accredited sites (e.g. Skyscrapercity.com) for personal preference is also taken into consideration.

Feats/Marvels - The number of structures over 200 m and other renowned structures that are within the city are considered in this. City's with record holding structures (such as first building over 100 stories, etc.) will have a higher score in this area. Statistics and facts from emporis.com (the most accredited architectural site) is the predominant source.

Uniqueness - Another subjective area, however, there is a general consensus amongst experts in the field on which skylines are the originals and which are the knock-offs.

Surroundings/Topography - This is the geographic variable, "in front of the heaven in the background" that skylines backdrop stands before. Also a subjective area, however, areas with lovely mountains and bodies of water that compliments the skyline is critical. Additionally geographical representation is in effect here, there is an attempt to represent cities from every continent.

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