List of tallest buildings in the British Empire and the British Commonwealth

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The title of tallest building in the British Empire (later in the Commonwealth) has been contested since the late nineteenth century. In this era the nations of the British Empire possessed a large measure of cultural unity and naturally looked to each other for comparison and competition. This was evident in the displays at Queen Victoria's silver and diamond jubilees and in the creation of the British Empire Games in 1930 (later the Commonwealth Games). A similar phenomenon occurred in the world of architecture and civics. Local boosters in cities and regions across the Empire covered the title of "greatest", "biggest", "largest" or "best" in the Empire.

This boosterism was concentrated in Canada where desire to claim the title spurned a race between cities and builders between 1905 and 1931.[1]

In general the boosters focused on commercial buildings, as claiming the title was part of marketing the building to potential renters (and the city to the wider world). They conveniently ignored much taller non-commercial buildings such as St Paul's Cathedral which stands 111 metres (364 ft) and was consecrated in 1708, or Victoria Tower in the Palace of Westminster which was built in 1855 and measures 98.5 metres (323 ft). The Commonwealth of Nations slowly evolved out of the British Empire over decades, but the 1931 Statute of Westminster is often used as a dividing point. During the twentieth century the title was held primarily by Canadian buildings. Since the 1990s, however Asian buildings have held the title.

Height restrictions have much to do with this list. Until the 1960s, London, the capital of the Empire, had especially strict height maxima to preserve the views of historic structures. Until the late 1920 Montreal limited all buildings to a maximum of 10 stories,[2] and it still limits buildings to less than the sea-level elevation of Mont Royal. Since 1989 Vancouver restricted buildings from blocking the North Shore Mountains, creating a practical upper limit of around 137 meters, until 1997 when seven sites were pre-selected for taller buildings as exceptions to the rule.[3] Singapore limits all buildings to below 280 meters because of the proximity of Singapore Changi Airport.

The International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong is not included because it was built after Hong Kong left the Commonwealth.

The list also excludes .Toronto's CN Tower as there is debate as to whether it is technically a building, or just a structure.

Tallest buildings in the Commonwealth[edit]

Years Building (original name) City Region Country Height Floors Image
1998–present Petronas Twin Towers Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory  Malaysia 379 m (1,243 ft) (452 m with spires) 88 Petronas Twin Towers
1992-1998 Central Plaza Central  Hong Kong 309 m (1,014 ft)(374 m with spire) 78 Central Plaza
1990-1992 Bank of China Tower Central  Hong Kong 305 m (1,001 ft)(367 m with spire) 72 Bank of China Tower
1975-1990 First Canadian Place Toronto Ontario  Canada 298 m (978 ft) (355 m with antenna) 72
First Canadian Place
1972-1975 Commerce Court West Toronto Ontario  Canada 239 m (784 ft) 57
Commerce Court West
1967-1972 Toronto-Dominion Centre Toronto Ontario  Canada 223 m (732 ft) 56
Toronto-Dominion Centre
1964-1967 Tour de la Bourse Montreal Quebec  Canada 190 m (620 ft) 47
Bourse-de-montreal.jpg
1962-1964 Royal Bank Tower Montreal Quebec  Canada 188 m (617 ft) 47 (originally 44)
Place Ville-Marie
1962 CIBC Building Montreal Quebec  Canada 187 m (614 ft) 45
Tour CIBC
1931-1962 Canadian Bank of Commerce Tower Toronto Ontario  Canada 145 m (476 ft) 34
Commerce Court North

Tallest buildings in the Empire[edit]

Years Building (original name) City Region Country Height Floors Image
1930-1931 Canadian Bank of Commerce Tower Toronto Ontario  Canada 145 m (476 ft) 34
Commerce Court North
1929-1930 Royal York Hotel Toronto Ontario  Canada 124 m (407 ft) 28
Royal York Hotel
1928-1929 Royal Bank Building Montreal Quebec  Canada 119 m (390 ft) 22
Royal Bank Building
1915-1928 Royal Bank Building Toronto Ontario  Canada 91 m (299 ft) 20
Old Royal Bank Building
1912-1915 Canadian Pacific Building Toronto Ontario  Canada 85m (279 ft) 15
Canadian Pacific Building
1912 Sun Tower Vancouver British Columbia  Canada 82 m (269 ft) 17
Sun Tower
1910-1912 Dominion Building Vancouver British Columbia  Canada 53 m (174 ft) 14
Dominion Building
1905-1910 Trader's Bank Building Toronto Ontario  Canada ??? 15
Trader's Bank Building

References[edit]