Petronas Towers, at 1,483 feet, were the world’s tallest buildings between 1999 and 2004. The towers are to Malaysia what the Eiffel Tower is to France or Lady Liberty to the U.S. - an icon to its people's aspirations.
The towers were constructed on an old racetrack, demolished and remade by a consortium of government and private interests into a prime commercial and business center. The Kuala Lumpur City Centre now stands in the racetrack's place, with the Petronas Twin Towers as the complex's piece de resistance.
Malaysia's biggest petroleum concern, Petronas, built the tower with support from the Malaysian government and other interests. It occupies Tower One, leasing Tower Two to tenants like IBM and Al Jazeera. Total cost for the towers amounted to US$1.6 billion.
Combining Traditional and Modern Design
The towers' design incorporates traditional elements into the cutting-edge design. The floor plan uses an eight-pointed star, a familiar motif in Malay Islamic art. The number eight also recurs in the floor count - eighty-eight - a good omen for the Chinese, who believe that the number eight is extremely auspicious.
As steel was too expensive, the Petronas Towers' engineers decided to use high-strength reinforced concrete as a primary building material. A curtain wall of steel and 32,000 glass windows protect the building's tenants from the elements.
The dizzying height makes a floor-to-roof elevator shaft unfeasible; instead, visitors are brought all the way up to the 41st floor in double-decker elevators. This level is home to a sky lobby that leads to a second set of elevators for higher floors, as well as the skybridge that links the two buildings.
How to Get to the Skybridge
The skybridge is open to visitors, but only under certain conditions.
Tickets are given away for free at the towers' concourse level, but are first-come-first served and valid only for the same day - you can't book a ticket in advance. Only 1,300 tickets are available on any given day.
It's no surprise that tickets are usually all gone by 9am, so come in early to get yours. If you're staying at one of the better hotels close by, your concierge may arrange this for you.
Visitor access is scheduled on your ticket, and may run to 7pm; while waiting for your turn, you can explore the Suria KLCC Mall at the base of the towers. You won't be bored waiting, as you'll have eight million square feet of shopping, dining, and entertainment at your disposal.
Your belongings will be inspected before entry, then you will be shown a video that shows how the towers were built. You'll then be shepherded into the double-decker elevators that lead to the sky lobby, then you'll be given five minutes to linger on the skybridge and gaze at Kuala Lumpur from a 558-foot height.
There's a little controversy whether the Petronas Towers were actually the tallest, full stop. Sure, the completed towers were 33 feet taller than the previous contender, the Sears Tower in Chicago. But the Sears' highest occupied floor is actually 200 feet higher than the Petronas' highest occupied floor!
The difference is what building elements are factored in the calculations - the Sears' broadcast antennae are not considered, whereas the Petronas Towers' uninhabited spires are.
In any case, the dispute is moot, as the 2,600-foot Burj Dubai has swept the race and won the "tallest building" competition, antenna or no antenna. The Petronas Towers keep the title of the world's tallest twin towers.
- Location: Kuala Lumpur City Centre, built on the site of Kuala Lumpur's old race track
- Operating Hours: 9:00am to 7:00pm; closed on Monday
- Ticket Prices: Free, but only 1,300 passes available every day.
- How to get there: Take the RapidKL LRT - Kelana Jaya Line, get off at KLCC station.