TV & Movies

The Real (And Very Tall) Buildings That Inspired Skyscraper's Pearl

The 3,500-foot skyscraper is meant to resemble a twisting dragon with a pearl in its mouth.

Originally Published: 
Universal Pictures

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is looking to continue his stellar year at the box office with Skyscraper, an old school action movie meant as an homage to classics of the genre like Die Hard and The Towering Inferno. In it, Johnson stars as a war veteran and former FBI hostage rescuer who now assesses security for skyscrapers. His newest assignment is The Pearl, the world's tallest and most advanced building, located in Hong Kong. Things of course don't go according to plan, and that may give you pause about visiting The Pearl in real life. But you don't have to worry about that, because The Pearl from Skyscraper is not a real building.

The film's marketing department has gone all out to convince fans it is, though, including creating a viral marketing website touting the building's unique features. Rising 240 stories above Hong Kong, the building features a spherical glass observation deck at the top — that's where the name The Pearl comes from. Between floors 200 and 230 is a giant wind turbine located within the building, generating its own power and allowing The Pearl to run on green energy. Adding to its greenness is a giant, 30-story botanical garden located on the 100th floor. There's also an Olympic-sized swimming pool, gyms, basketball courts, a driving range, a movie theater, and a six-story shopping mall — in addition to luxury apartments and hotels.

In the movie, The Pearl is 3,500 feet, which would make it the tallest building in the world by a whopping 783 feet over the actual world's tallest building, the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa in Dubai. That height differential alone is larger than New York's Met Life Tower, which was at one time the tallest building in the world. The Pearl's 250 stories would also easily be a world record, dwarfing the current title-holder Burj Khalifa's 163. The tallest building in Hong Kong in real life is the 1,588-foot International Commerce Centre, which is less than half the size of the fictional Pearl.

The Pearl was designed by production designer Jim Bissell, while architect and Burj Khalifa designer Adrian Smith also lent input about the more technical aspects of the building. Bissell got the idea for the building's design from an ancient Chinese fable called the Dragon and the Pearl, with the building somewhat resembling a twisting dragon with a pearl in its mouth, as he explains in the video above.

As for possible real-life inspirations for The Pearl beyond the Burj Khalifa, there are a couple of buildings in China that may fit the bill — both with the word "pearl" in their names. The Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai rises 1,535 feet and was China's tallest structure from 1994 until 2007. The building functions mainly as a TV tower, though it does feature a circular observation deck with a glass floor. Then there's the Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou. Designed with input from Adrian Smith, the 1,016-foot skyscraper is one of the world's greenest buildings, according to Inhabitat, and it generates its own power through a number of methods, including through the use of wind turbines like The Pearl. Outside of China, there's the upcoming Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia. Another Smith design, this mega-tall structure will take the title of world's tallest building when it's topped out at 3,280 feet. That still makes it a couple hundred feet shorter than The Pearl, which was surely no accident on the part of the filmmakers.

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