They are one of the most iconic towers in the entire world, and in this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the Petronas Towers.
Related: This list contains some of the most stunning skyscrapers in the world.
1. What are the Petronas Towers?
The Petronas Towers are twin skyscrapers in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. They are an iconic landmark of the city and are recognized all over the world because of their distinctive design.
The towers are a combination of commercial buildings and also fulfill their purpose as one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.
2. What does Petronas stand for?
Petronas is an abbreviation of “Peroliam Nasional Berhad.” This is a Malaysian oil and gas company owned by the Malaysian government.
This company commissioned the construction of the Petronas Towers and uses the entire first tower as their headquarters, along with multiple subsidiary companies.
3. They once were the tallest buildings in the world
The architectural height of the Petronas Towers is 451.9 meters (1,483 ft). This made them the tallest buildings in the world upon completion in 1998, effectively surpassing the Willis Tower in Chicago with 9.8 meters (32.15 ft).
They remained the tallest buildings in the world until 2004 when they were surpassed by the Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taiwan, which is 509.2 meters (1,671 ft) tall.
The “race to the sky” doesn’t stop though, as the Burj Khalifa can call itself the tallest building in the world right now, but will soon be surpassed by the Jeddah Tower and potentially in the future by the Sky Mile Tower in Tokyo.
4. They still hold a pretty neat record though
The race to the sky is unstoppable, and we will see many skyscrapers and towers attempt to knock the current tallest building off its first spot soon.
That being said, the Petronas Towers are, as of today, still the tallest twin towers in the world!
They also used to be the tallest buildings in Malaysia, but they will be surpassed by the PNB 118 (Menara Warisan Merdeka) tower in Kuala Lumpur which will have a height of 644 meters (2,113 ft) upon its completion.
5. The towers had a renowned architect
The architect of the world’s most famous twin towers was César Pelli (October 12, 1926 – July 19, 2019), An Argentinian-born American architect who specialized in skyscrapers.
Pelli has left his mark on many countries as he designed the tallest buildings in multiple countries all around the world. He was named one of the ten most influential architects in the United States back in 1991 and received the AIA (American Institue for Architects), Gold Medal, in 1995.
His most famous works apart from the Petronas Towers are the World Financial Center in New York and the International Finance Center in Hong Kong.
6. The design of the towers has 2 meanings
In the early 1990s, it was decided to build an icon for Kuala Lumpur which would become the most distinctive landmark of the country.
The idea was to combine the traditional Malaysian and Islamic culture with a design that would allow the towers to serve their purpose as a 21st-century icon.
Therefore, a postmodern design with a steel and glass facade that integrates motifs found in Islamic art was chosen. The cross-section of the towers also includes a “Rub el Hizb,” an Islamic symbol.
7. The towers are built on a horse racing track
Kuala Lumpur is a massive city and the Towers are located just northeast of the Old Town, right in the heart of the city.
One of the most interesting facts about the Petronas Towers is that they were built on the grounds of an old horse racing course named the “Selangor Turf Club.”
The club, which was founded in the late 19th century, eventually moved away from its original location to make way for the construction of the towers and the adjoined KLCC Park.
8. The original site wasn’t suited for construction
The planning to start construction started in early 1992 when soil tests were being conducted on the site. This resulted in an unfortunate discovery.
The city’s name, “Kuala Lumpur,” literally translates to “Muddy Confluence.” Kuala means the location where two rivers come together, and Lumpur means mud.
With this in mind, the developers of the Petronas Towers must have thought that they would be digging through the mud when they started the excavation works.
Unfortunately for them, they discovered through the first boreholes that half of the construction site sat on a cliff consisting of limestone, with the other half sitting on soft rock.
They moved the original site about 61 meters (200 ft) so they could dig to lay the foundation completely in the area with soft rock.
9. The Towers have the world’s deepest foundations
So the soil that the developers were now digging in was soft rock, as in the mud that Kuala Lumpur was named after. This process started on March 31, 1993, and involved over 500 trucks moving earth from the excavations out every day.
Because of the muddy soil, the bedrock, which is the solid rock that lies under the looser soil, was very deep.
A total of 104 massive pillars of concrete were bored into the ground with a depth of between 60 and 114 meters (197 and 374 ft).
These massive pillars, which consist of 13,200 cubic meters (470,000 cu ft) of concrete, hold the record of being the deepest foundations in the world!
10. There’s a reason that the foundation of the towers is so deep
If you look at the Petronas Towers, you would assume that they are constructed with a steel framework, right?
Well, the towers were actually built with super-strong reinforced concrete because it was much more cost-effective to do so. After all, concrete could be purchased locally, and importing steel would have been extremely expensive.
Plus, the Asian contractors the built the towers were much more familiar with reinforced concrete than steel.
What’s the downside?
Because the towers were constructed with reinforced concrete, they also weigh double as much as if they would have been built with steel!
This, on the other hand, also makes the towers much stronger and much more effective in say reduction.
Yes, the Petronas Towers are immensely strong buildings!
11. The Malaysian Government set a deadline
The work on the foundation, which was started on March 1, 1993, was completed within 12 months by Bachy Soletanche Limited, a leading foundation engineering company.
The Malaysian Government had set a deadline for the project to be finished within 6 years, just to ensure that the towers could be inaugurated before the new Millennium.
Because not one, but two towers needed to be built and the deadline was set to 6 years, 2 contractors were hired for the construction, one for each tower.
- Tower 1: Built by the Japanese Hazama Corporation.
- Tower 2: Built by the South Korean Samsung C&T Corporation.
So who set the record of building the tallest building first?
That was the South Korean construction company, meaning tower 2 (the east tower, right in the picture below) became the tallest building in the world first!
12. This error cost about $700,000 a day
By trying to build the towers much cheaper using reinforced concrete, the developers ran into a major issue early on.
It turned out that one of the batches of concrete had failed a basic strength test, which means the construction was halted.
To make things even worse, all floors that had been completed so far were tested again as well. Luckily, there was only one floor affected and it was subsequently destroyed and replaced.
Halting the construction cost the developers about USD 700,000 (!) every single day, and to avoid an issue like this occurring again, three concrete plants were set up on the construction site for the remainder of the construction period.
Well that was an expensive batch of concrete, wasn’t it?
13. A sky bridge connects both towers
The sky bridge which connects both towers has 2 floors and is located on the 41st and 42nd floors of the towers, 170 meters (558 ft) above the ground. It’s the highest 2-story bridge in the world.
Only the 41st floor is open to the public (the 42nd is reserved for the companies renting office space), and even though the entrance used to be free until 2010, you now need to pay to get in. An additional ticket allows you to go up to the 86th floor as well.
Additionally, only the first 1,000 people will be able to acquire a ticket for the day. If you’re too late, you’ll have to wait for the next day!
14. The sky bridge slides into the towers
This sky bridge isn’t actually connected to the towers, it slides into it to avoid damage when strong winds make the towers sway.
The way the sky bridge is set up is that it slides in and out of the towers during a storm, and actually provides structural support for the towers as well.
The final benefit of the sky bridge is that it serves as an emergency exit. If needed, people inside tower 1 can be evacuated to tower 2 and vice versa by crossing it.
15. There’s an adjoined shopping mall and park
At the foot of the towers, there’s a 140,000 square meters (1,500,000 sq ft) shopping mall called the “Suria KLCC.” It mainly focuses on foreign luxury goods. It also contains an art gallery, an underwater aquarium, and a science center.
Next to the towers, a landscaped park has been built which opened in 1998 called the “KLCC Park.” it has nice walking paths where you can have a relaxing stroll or even jog with some of the most amazing buildings in the background!
16. The Towers have been featured in multiple movies
One of the most iconic buildings in the world deserves to be featured in many movies. And so it did. It has been the setting of several films including:
- Entrapment (1999) – A heist film featuring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
- Don: The Chase Begins Again (2006) – A Bollywood action/thriller.
- Fair Game (2010) – A political drama with Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.
- Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) – A science fiction apocalyptic film.
Quick facts about the Petronas Towers
17. The Petronas Towers are built in a Postmodern Islamic architectural style.
18. The groundbreaking happened on January 1, 1992, the construction started on March 1, 1993, and the towers were completed just 3 years later on March 1, 1996.
19. The towers were officially opened on August 31, 1999, by the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad.
20. The total cost to construct the towers is estimated to have been about USD 1.6 billion.
21. The architectural height of the towers is 451.9 meters (1,483 ft), the height of the roof is 378.6 meters (1,242 ft), and the top floor is located at a height of 375 meters (1,230 ft).
22. The towers have a total of 88 floors and an additional 5 floors below the ground.
23. The total floor area of both towers is 395,000 square meters (4,252,000 sq ft) and each tower has a total of 38 elevators.
24. During the construction of the foundation of the tower, concrete was poured into the holes for a period of 54 hours straight, which was a world record.
25. The foundation weighs a total of 32,500 tonnes (35,800 tons) and the 104 concrete pillars are each 4.6 meters (15 ft) thick.
26. The towers are further stabilized by 23 by 23 meters (75×75 ft) concrete cores which contain an outer ring of “super-columns.”
27. The Petronas Towers use a tube-in-tube structural design, which allows it to offer 560,000 square meters (6.02 million sq ft) in column-free office space.
28. The sky bridge is located 170 meters (558 ft) above the ground and is 58.4 meters (192 ft) long. It also weighs 750 tons.
29. The arches that support the sky bridge are attached to the towers on the 29th floor and are each 51 meters (167 ft) long.
30. The sky bridge was completely assembled on the ground, and then lifted into position over a period of 3 days.
31. On April 15, 1999, Australian base jumper Felix Baumgartner (you know, the guy that jumped out of the stratosphere), jumped from the Petronas Towers. He used a crane that’s used by window cleaners to perform his stunt.
32. Perhaps even more impressive is the stunt pulled by the “French Spiderman” Alain Robert. On the morning of September 1, 2009, Robert started climbing Tower Two without any safety measures, using only his bare hands and feet.
It wasn’t the first time that he tried though. His previous attempts both ended with him being arrested, the first time in 1997 and the second time in 2007.
Watch the footage here: