Perhaps no element of a tall building is more closely related to the pure pleasure of standing high in the sky and taking in the view of one’s surroundings than observation decks. Often adding an important source of revenue for the structures that have them, observation decks also change the way people view cities, and can potentially elevate their international reputation.

Many building owners don’t take the “pure pleasure of height” for granted, choosing to include all manner of amusements, from glass floors to roller coasters and bungee jumps. Here we take a look at the history and chronicle some of the histrionics of humanity’s obsession with height.

CTBUH

The history of the observation deck can be said to have its origins in North American culture, and the observation deck was integrated into the skyscraper at an early stage. As soon as we started building into the clouds, people wanted to know what the view looked like from the top. Recently however, Asia and the Middle East have taken over the development of the observation deck as they come into their era of building tall.

Currently, the tallest observation deck is located within the 828-meter-tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE. Visitors can take in the fast growing metropolis below from a lofty height of 556 meters. But if all goes as planned, by late 2015, five new observation decks will be even higher including the observation deck at Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower which will sit at 638 meters (2,092 feet). The building itself will rise to a staggering 1,000 meters tall.

To view an interactive list of the highest observation decks, visit CTBUH.