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Merdeka 118: 2nd Tallest Building in the World

by Andy Khong

Merdeka 118 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is now the second tallest building in the world.

The name “Merdeka” means “independence” in the Malay language, and the number “118” signifies the number of floors in the building; with a large Cantonese speaking population around Kuala Lumpur, the number 118 has an auspicious significance meaning, “each and every day being prosperous”. The building is part of Malaysia’s vision to create an iconic landmark and contribute to the development of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline.

Merdeka 118 at the height of 678.9 meters (2,227 feet), is the second tallest building in the world after the Burj Khalifa [828 metres (2,716.5 feet)] in Dubai, UAE. The height of Merdeka 118 is meant to be a play on the numerical sequence of numbers 6-7-8-9.

The skyscraper’s design draws inspiration from the outstretched hand gesture made by *Federation of Malaya’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman on 31st August 1957, when he chanted 7 times, “Merdeka” to declare the new nation’s independence in Stadium Merdeka, which is part of the Merdeka 118 precinct.

Silhouette of Tunku Abdul Rahman being used for the design of Merdeka 118.

The building’s shape is said to resemble a geometric hourglass, with its top narrowing before flaring out again. The exterior features a diamond-patterned façade that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional, providing shade and reducing heat absorption.

Merdeka 118 is planned to be a mixed-use development, comprising various components such as office spaces, residential units, retail outlets, a luxury hotel, and observation decks. This approach is common in many modern skyscrapers, creating a dynamic and integrated urban environment within a single structure.

The project has emphasized sustainability and energy efficiency. The design incorporates features to reduce energy consumption, enhance natural ventilation, and make use of renewable energy sources where possible.

Construction began in 2014, and the building will be completed before the end of 2023. Merdeka 118 is expected to have a significant economic impact by attracting tourists, businesses, and investments to Kuala Lumpur. It’s also seen as a symbol of Malaysia’s growth and development.

Merdeka 118: 2nd tallest building in the World.

History on the founding of Malaya, which later became Malaysia:
[*Federation of Malaya consists of 9 states (Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu), and 2 of the 3 Straits Settlements (British Territories) being Penang, and Malacca. Singapore being the 3rd Straits Settlements was not in the Federation of Malaya on 31st August 1957 (Independence Day of Malaya). North Borneo (Sabah), Borneo (Sarawak), and Singapore joined the Federation of Malaya to form the country of Malaysia on 16th September 1963. Brunei initially intended to join the formation of Malaysia, but later withdrew because the Sultanate (Royal Family) had concerns over its autonomy and preferred to remain a separate entity. Due to social unrest, racial tensions, and political differences^, Singapore was expelled from Malaysia, and became an independent republic on 9th August 1965. ^A sore point (with the Federal Government of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur) of Singapore being in the Federation of Malaysia was its pledge for meritocracy, being a “Malaysian Malaysia”, equal treatment and opportunities for all races in Malaysia without any regard for the economic conditions of any particular race. Singapore’s pledge was in contrast to the Federal Government of Malaysia, who wanted to implement its “bumiputera policy” of affirmative action in favour of Malays and the indigenous population.

President Sukarno of Indonesia opposed the inclusion of the North Borneo (Sabah), Borneo (Sarawak), and Singapore into Malaysia. He believed that the creation of Malaysia was the British Empire’s form of neo-imperialism and neo-colonialism, and saw it as a threat to Indonesia’s territorial integrity. President Sukarno decided to “Ganyang Malaysia” (Crush Malaysia in Indonesian language), declared a state of Konfrontasi (Confrontation) against Malaysia, and initiated military and other actions against the new nation, which included the bombing of a building in Orchard Road, Singapore by Indonesian commandos. United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand provided troops and logistical support to assist the Armed Forces from Malaya, Brunei, and Singapore to counter the Indonesian aggression. Konfrontasi started shortly after Malaysia was formed in 1963, and came to an end in 1966 when General Suharto toppled President Sukarno in a military coup d’état in Indonesia. The new Indonesian leadership sought to normalize relations with Malaysia, and a peace treaty was signed between Indonesia and Malaysia, officially ending the conflict. Read about the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation].

The other skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur.

Exchange 106 is a prominent skyscraper located in the financial district of Kuala Lumpur.

It stands at a height of approximately 453.6 m (1,488 feet), making it the 2nd tallest building in Malaysia (after Merdeka 118). The building primarily serves as a commercial office space. It was designed to cater to multinational corporations, financial institutions, and other business entities, contributing to Kuala Lumpur’s status as a financial hub.

Exchange 106 features a sleek and modern design characterized by its reflective glass façade and clean lines. The architecture reflects a contemporary corporate aesthetic. It is situated within the Tun Razak Exchange, a planned financial district that aims to attract global financial players and enhance Kuala Lumpur’s status as an international business centre. The building was completed and officially opened in 2019.

Exchange 106.

The Petronas Twin Towers are one of Malaysia’s most iconic landmarks and were once the tallest buildings in the world. The towers each stand at a height of 451.9 meters (1,483 feet), and they held the title of the world’s tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004. It is now the 3rd tallest building in Malaysia after Merdeka 118, and Exchange 106.

The towers primarily house office spaces, with various multinational corporations and businesses leasing space within them. They are also home to the headquarters of Petronas, Malaysia’s national oil company.

The towers are renowned for their Islamic-inspired architecture and design. The exterior features stainless steel and glass façades that reflect traditional Islamic geometric patterns. The towers are connected by a sky bridge on the 41st and 42nd floors, which offers panoramic views of the city. Additionally, there is an observation deck on the 86th floor of Tower 2 that provides stunning vistas of Kuala Lumpur. A number of movies have been filmed at the Petronas Twin Towers – ‘Entrapment’ starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones being one of them.

The Petronas Twin Towers are not only an architectural marvel but also hold cultural and symbolic significance for Malaysia, representing the nation’s progress and aspiration.

Petronas Twin Towers.

The Kuala Lumpur Tower, often referred to as KL Tower, is another prominent landmark in Kuala Lumpur.

The tower stands at a height of 421 meters (1,381 feet), making it one of the tallest telecommunications towers in the world. KL Tower serves as a telecommunications and broadcasting tower, housing antennas and equipment for various communication purposes.

One of the main attractions of KL Tower is its observation deck, located at a height of 276 meters (906 feet). Visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. KL Tower features a unique design with a spindle-like structure that tapers towards the top. The tower’s architecture reflects a combination of modern and traditional aesthetics.

The tower also houses several attractions and facilities, including a revolving restaurant, a cultural village showcasing Malaysia’s diverse heritage, and various adventure activities for tourists.

Kuala Lumpur Tower.

Muddy Confluence – that’s what Kuala Lumpur means in the Malay language! Kuala means “confluence of two rivers” (being the Klang and Gombak Rivers), and Lumpur means “mud”.

If you haven’t been, go experience the awe-inspiring heights of architectural marvels in Kuala Lumpur! Discover the city’s iconic skyline adorned with structures like the soaring Merdeka 118, the impressive Exchange 106, the world-renowned Petronas Twin Towers, and the majestic KL Tower. Immerse yourself in the blend of modernity and culture as you witness these engineering masterpieces that stand as testaments to human innovation. Kuala Lumpur beckons you to embrace the beauty of these towering landmarks, offering an unforgettable journey into the heart of Malaysia’s urban brilliance.

List of tallest buildings in the world.

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