Facts about Petronas Twin Towers

When it comes to iconic landmarks, people easily recognise man-made wonders first as they usually represent the identity of a nation and its culture. Skyscrapers, in particular, are a perfect example of this.

For over 20 years, the Petronas Twin Towers stood as a true symbol of national pride for us Malaysians. The breathtaking skyscraper is known for being the tallest twin buildings in the world. 

But as much as we love boasting about the absolute magnificence of these towers, many of us may not be aware of the dizzying facts that make them truly incredible. So, we’ve put together a list of lesser-known facts about the twin towers that every proud Malaysian should know.

1. The towers were designed by a world-renowned architect

American architect Cesar Pelli
Image credit: Urbipedia

Most Malaysians know the iconic Petronas Twin Towers as the tallest buildings in the country, and their global presence as Malaysia’s landmark. But not many may be aware of the man behind these majestic skyscrapers. 

The twin towers were designed by César Pelli, one of the United States’ most influential architects. He previously constructed New York’s World Financial Centre and Hong Kong’s International Finance Centre.

During the start of the Petronas Towers project, Pelli was tasked to come up with a symbol of five Islamic pillars reimagined in a postmodernist way. As Pelli was known for his excellence in designing remarkable buildings, he had no trouble coming up with the iconic design of the twin towers that we see today.

2. The towers follow a post-modern Islamic architecture

Petronas Twin Towers at night
Image credit: Jaanus Jagomägi / Unsplash

The Petronas Towers were constructed in 1998 using reinforced concrete, steel and glass for its facade, and aluminium to craft geometric motifs found in Islamic art and as a reflection of Malaysia’s official religion.

Many Malaysians may not have noticed several Islamic influences on the design until today. The first is the cross-section of the towers which is based on a Rub el Hizb, also known as the Islamic star. The design was adapted for the construction of the twin towers with circular sectors added to meet office space requirements.

The circular sectors in the design are another Islamic influence in the architecture of the building. These are similar to the bottom part of the Qutub Minar in New Delhi, India, which is a minaret from the Qutb Minar complex.

3. The towers’ original site was a horse racing track

Petronas Twin Towers former site
Image credit: Senyum Itu Indah

Another interesting fact about the twin towers that people might have not heard of, is that the construction of the towers was initially set to be on the grounds of a former horse racing track in Kuala Lumpur.

The site was located on the edge of a cliff, and half of it was made of decayed limestone and the other half was soft rock. This eventually resulted in the construction team facing its first problem, as the foundation for the megastructures could not be laid down properly.

But that didn’t stop them from continuing the project. They moved the entire project about 200 feet away from the original horse track to lay one of the world’s strongest architectural foundations.

4. Each tower was built by a different company

Petronas Twin Towers at night
Image credit: Vlad Shapochnikov / Unsplash

Malaysians take pride in having the world’s tallest twin buildings to date. But even the proudest citizens of our country might think that the twin towers were built by local companies.

There is actually a sizeable amount of foreign expertise behind the colossal skyscrapers that many have missed. The story goes that the twin towers were intended to be inaugurated before the new millennium by the Malaysian government once the project was approved. 

So, authorities at that time appointed two contractors to expedite the construction of the monumental design in just six years. Tower 1, or the West Tower, was built by the Japanese company Hazama Corporation, and Tower 2, or the East Tower, by the South Korean company, Samsung C&T Corporation.

5. The sky bridge is not fully attached to the towers

Petronas Twin Towers in KL
Image credit: V. Epiney

Visiting the twin towers wouldn’t be complete without making it all the way up to the 41st and 42nd floors, where the iconic sky bridge is located. This highest two-storey bridge in the world is worth checking out as it offers an unparalleled view of the Kuala Lumpur city skyline.

But even skyscraper enthusiasts may not know that the sky bridge of the Petronas Twin Towers was actually slid into the twin buildings instead of being solidly connected to them on both sides.

This was done to avoid damage when the towers are swayed by strong winds. During a heavy storm, the bridge slides in and out between the two towers, which in turn provides additional structural support to the buildings.

6. The towers appeared in famous Hollywood movies and cartoons

Twin towers crashing
Image credit: 20th Century Studios 

Being Malaysia’s ultimate landmark building, the twin towers have admirers from all over the world. The towers’ popularity can certainly be seen through the multiple pop culture references to them, as they have appeared in several Hollywood films and cartoons.

Some of the more famous international appearances include the 1999 movie Entrapment, where numerous scenes were filmed at the towers, including the climax scene that was set on the sky bridge. 

In 2010, the towers made an appearance in the opening scene of the movie Fair Game, starring Naomi Watts in the leading role. Then in 2016, the towers featured in a controversial scene in the movie Independence Day: Resurgence, where they were depicted crashing on the London Tower Bridge after being attacked by aliens.

Apart from these movies, the twin buildings also appeared in popular animated series such as Totally Spies in the episode ‘Man or Machine’, and Phineas and Ferb in the episode ‘Phineas and Ferb Save Summer!’.

Lesser-known facts about Petronas Twin Towers

From the creativity of a world-renowned architect to being featured in famous movies and animated series, the Petronas Twin Towers remain one of the world’s most iconic landmarks as they continue to inspire generations of Malaysians, both old and young.

The strength and stunning beauty of the marvellous towers will always be a reminder of how much we are capable of achieving despite being a relatively small developing nation in Asia.

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Cover image adapted from: V. Epiney and Senyum Itu Indah

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