Skyscrapers as Signs of Economic Doom

Last Updated Apr 14, 2008 5:12 PM EDT

Do tall buildings cause economic cycles?

An investment banker friend of mine introduced me to the Skyscraper Theory, which suggests that when record-setting buildings arise, stock market crashes follow.
Skyscrapers and business cycles offers a table with this chart of building, date completed and economic crisis:

Singer Building (New York, 1908) 47 stories, 612 feet tall, Panic of 1907
Metropolitan Life Building (New York, 1909) 50 stories, 700 feet tall, Panic of 1907
Woolworth Building (New York, 1913), 57 stories, 792 feet tall, no clear economic crisis [though World War I did start the next year]
40 Wall Street (New York, 1929) 71 stories, 927 feet tall, Great Depression Chrysler Building (New York, 1930) 77 stories, 1,046 feet tall, Great Depression
Empire State Building (New York, 1931) 102 stories, 1,250 feet tall, Great Depression World Trade Center (New York, 1972-73) 110 stories, 1,368 feet tall, 1970s Stagflation
Sears Tower (Chicago, 1974) 110 stories, 1,450 feet tall, 1970s Stagflation
Petronas Tower (Kuala Lumpur, 1997), 88 stories, 1,483 feet tall, East Asian Crisis
Shanghai World (Shanghai, due in 2012), 94 stories, 1,509 feet tall, China Crisis?
[this table was reworked after posting to make it clearer to read]

More emphatic is Beware the Skyscraper Curse

A bull market goodbye from Dubai incorporates Taipei's 101 Tower and speculates that Dubai's market will fall when the Burj Dubai gets finished.

Here in the U.S., we've moved beyond the need to build monuments to our stock market crashes. Breaking the cycle starts here.

  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.