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July 8th, 2013

The Gadget Show brings us a fairly practical flying car, apartments at the top of The Shard are valued at £50 million, and only the weather kept Nick Hancock from two comfortless months atop the wave-swept, guano-grimed islet of Rockall. Heights are as great as ever!

A young man in Southampton, (technically a trespasser) has climbed past the gates and defences of a 300’ tower crane to film himself dangling below the jib, with docks and building sites below.

But this wilful appetite for extreme danger is no rare thing, nor the result of youthful daftness. Dorothy Custer lately celebrated her 102nd birthday with a base jump off the extraordinarily scenic 500ft high Perrine Bridge in Idaho, USA.

The dazzling 630ft high stainless steel Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri (here being polished during construction) has attracted stunts. A parachutist landed on the arch, planning to base-jump with his reserve chute; but he slid down one side, to his death.

It seems odd that so many want to risk their necks climbing without permission, when there’s plenty of high-paid, high-level work in the world, and so few people who dare do it.

But it’s not just crazies who are fixated by structures’ height; it’s in architects’ blood, of course. The half-mile-high Burj Khalifa already dwarfs New York’s skyscrapers, but the planned Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia would leave every existing building far, far below.

The financial downturn has put many lofty projects on hold…but buildings over 3000ft high are now regarded possible. Interesting, that both our highest architectural achievements and our popular fantasies ultimately reflect marvels of the natural world, seen here in southern China.

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