Taipei 101 stands out as Taiwan’s modern icon

The 730-tonne damper
View of Taipei from the observation deck.
A postcard photo of Taipei 101 standing high above all in Taipei.
A visitor takes a closer look at the damper.
A diagram showing how the damper is suspended.

TAIPEI 101 is to Taiwan what the Petronas Twin Towers are to Malaysia, the Empire State Building is to America or the Burj Khalifa is to Dubai.

The landmark skyscraper in the Xinyi district of Taipei was initially called the Taipei World Financial Centre, but became better known simply as 'Taipei 101' because the 509-metre-tall building comprises 101 storeys — just one storey less than the Empire State Building in Manhattan.

Although that is only about 50% more in terms of storeys than Komtar in Penang, it is actually more than double the height of the 68-storey Komtar which only stands at 249m.

Like all iconic super skyscrapers the world over, Taipei 101 which was completed in 2004, is one of the city's main attractions.

It boasts superfast elevators which travel at over 60km per hour and transport visitors from the podium to the observation deck on the 89th floor for a birds eye view of Taipei, in a little under 40 seconds.

A special attraction at 'Taipei 101' for visitors to see, is a gigantic 6-metre diametre steel ball weighing 730 tonnes which is suspended by eight steel cables from the 92nd to the 87th floor.

This is the building's main "tuned mass damper" — a sort of "absorber" — which can swing up to 1.5m in any direction to reduce up to 40% of sways to prevent discomfort, damage, or structural failure as the super skyscraper sits less than 250m from a major fault line.

As Taipei is prone to earthquakes and winds as fast as 200km per hour, Taipei 101 had to be built to
withstand such conditions.

In addition to the main damper, two smaller ones weighing seven tonnes each are in place at the top of the building to counter strong winds.

According to reports, the dampers proved to be most effective during the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake in China which was so intense that the tremors were felt throughout Taipei 101 building for a whole eight minutes after the quake started — but the building stood without any structural damage.

To be fair, most super skyscrapers have tuned mass dampers, but not many have used the opportunity to turn them into an attraction, as at Taipei 101.