Merdeka 118

Merdeka 118 – Redefining the Kuala Lumpur Skyline

Merdeka 118 Tower is a 678-meter supertall skyscraper with 118 floors located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. With a height of 678 meters, it is currently ranked as the second-tallest building in the world. It is also ranked as the tallest structure in Southeast Asia. The Merdeka 118 Tower gets its name from the nearby Merdeka Stadium, and the word translates to “independence”. 



Exploring the Second-Tallest Building in the World – The Merdeka 118 Tower

ArchitectFender Katsalidis (est. 1996)
Date Completed2023
Height (meters)678
LocationKuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Merdeka 118 Tower Height The Merdeka 118 Tower in Kuala Lumpur; InterEdit88, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) is funding the Merdeka 118 development, which has a budget of US$1.21 billion. The Merdeka 118 Tower will be built in three stages and will include 400,000 square meters of hotel, residential, and commercial space. It will include five stories of hotel condominiums, 12 stories of hotel rooms, 83 stories of workplaces, and 100 stories of rentable space. It also has two observation decks – one of which is located in the spire and another one in the tower itself –  and it will be ranked as Southeast Asia’s highest observatory floor. Four acres of parks will eventually surround the building.

The non-rentable space includes recreation and service facilities, elevators, and parking for up to 8,500 vehicles. 

PNB, the project’s developer, and its affiliates will have access to 60 of the 80 floors of office space. The tower is located on Petaling Hill, on the site of the original Merdeka Park, which was later converted into an open-air car park. The building is close to Petaling Street, sporting grounds such as Stadium Negara and Merdeka Stadium, three schools, and the delayed Plaza Rakyat project. When finished, the Merdeka 118 Tower will have accessibility to the newly constructed Merdeka MRT Station. It will be connected directly from three main roadways by the Belfield Tube, a two-story underground tunnel that will run beneath Jalan Maharajalela and Kampung Attap to the precinct’s basement.


Design of Merdeka 118 Tower

The building’s design boasts a distinct form that is designed to represent Malaysian pride and independence. Merdeka 118 Tower’s design was influenced by Tunku Abdul Rahman’s extended hand gesture while proclaiming “Merdeka!” when he declared Malaysia’s independence on the 31st of August, 1957. The cladding of the tower will be made up of more than 18,140 panels, 114,000 square meters of glass, and 1,600 tonnes of window frame moldings.

The skyscraper, when finished, will include Grade-A offices, residential spaces, hotels, and the 118 Mall. 

Arup is the structural and civil engineer of record, while Robert Bird Group and Leslie E. Robertson Associates are the structural engineers. The structure will be fitted and lit at night with 8.5 kilometers of LED light strips that will progressively travel from one side to another. The Neapoli Group, an environmental engineering and design business, was hired to conduct consulting services in order to achieve a platinum LEED, GreenRE, and Green Building Index certification. It will also have a 100% rainwater harvesting system to irrigate the precinct’s exterior vegetation.

How Tall Is the Merdeka 118 Tower Merdeka 119 Tower in November 2019; Shesmax, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Merdeka 118 Tower also features a 1.6-hectare recreational water park created by Sasaki, a landscape architect based in Boston at its base. This environment is car-free and intended for individuals of all backgrounds and ages to enjoy. This skyscraper and its neighboring precinct have injected renewed optimistic hope into the city while also allowing for much-needed substantial improvements to the area’s traffic and pedestrian infrastructure.

Fender Katsalidis, a Melbourne-based architecture firm formed in 1996, designed the skyscraper. 


Construction of the Merdeka 118 Tower

Pintaras Geotechnics Sdn Bhd was allocated the project’s foundation and piling work and PNB shortlisted six other groups for various building contracts. These companies all submitted bids for the position by the 28th of January, 2015. PNB stated on the 23rd of November, 2015, that a contract worth RM3.4 billion had been granted to South Korea’s Samsung C&T. PNB announced on the 9th of November, 2017, that it sought to raise up to RM5 billion for its development using a “green sukuk”, with a 15-year term.

A green sukuk is an Islamic financial tool intended to raise funding for renewable energy initiatives. It was designed to promote investment in ecologically friendly initiatives. 

The sukuk was used to fund the construction of the tower’s 83-story office space. The Merdeka 118 Tower is the first to embrace the ASEAN Green Bond Standards, which were developed by the Securities Commission Malaysia and certify PNB’s commitment to the project’s development in a sustainable and ecologically responsible manner. Park Hyatt Hotel announced the opening of a branch in the tower on the 27th of February, 2018. This Park Hyatt hotel branch will occupy the top 17 stories of the structure and will accommodate more than 230 units, including 30 condos and 28 suites.

Merdeka 118 Tower Location Construction of Merdeka 118 Tower in July 2019; Sean Doan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Construction was suspended on the 18th of March, 2020, owing to the Malaysian orders imposed in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, however, work restarted in mid-May 2020. The development’s concrete core reached 118 stories in early August 2020, overtaking the Vincom Landmark 81 as Southeast Asia’s tallest building. Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn, PNB’s president, declared on the 25th of October, 2020, that the first two phases of construction were projected to be completed in the third quarter of 2022.

Phase 3 was scheduled to be finished in 2023 or 2024. As of the 8th of June, 2021, the skyscraper was 81% complete, with the assembly of the glass facade underway at Floor 108, and it had effectively hit Floor 118, with the spire and retail platform already 50% built. 

The Merdeka 118 Tower was topped out in November 2021. The developers stated that they were extremely happy to have contributed to the establishment of this structure and its plethora of community assets, which enhance one of Malaysia’s most historically significant places. They added that their first objective was to protect the site and use every opportunity to construct a skyscraper that complemented the city’s social dynamism and cultural fabric. It has a faceted exterior made up of triangular planes of glass, which they say is inspired by motifs seen in Malaysian art and craft. The completion of the skyscraper is a much-awaited occurrence. According to the building’s owner, some inhabitants are scheduled to move in by mid-2023.


Criticisms of the Merdeka 118 Tower

Many Malaysians have opposed this development, arguing that it is unneeded and a squandering of public resources because it is supported by the PNB, the Malaysian government’s state-owned corporation. The price of construction, totaling more than RM5 billion, is thought to have been better invested in other pragmatic purposes, such as healthcare and education which have been struggling in the country.

Why Was the Merdeka 118 Tower Built Views from Kuala Lumpur Tower with Merdeka 118 Tower in far left corner; Pangalau, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In reaction to the criticisms, Najib Razak, the country’s former Prime minister who would later be personally implicated in the 1MDB controversy, argued that the initiative was not a waste of time and that it would offer additional advantages by increasing economic prospects. The 1MDB scandal revolves around claims of systemic corruption, fraud, and laundering by top Malaysian officials, notably Najib Razak, and mismanagement of billions of dollars that were supposed to be invested in initiatives to strengthen the Malaysian economy.


Incidents of Trespassing

A video clip started spreading online in 2022 when a number of Americans trespassed and made their way to the top of the tower, provoking concerns about the project’s lack of security. The developers noted in a release that such acts are prohibited and that trespassing is against the law.

They were subsequently prosecuted under the Malaysian penal code, section 457. 

Merdeka 118 Tower View of Merdeka 118 Tower from Changkat Bukit Bintang; Azreey, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another trespassing incident happened the same year, when Russian roof toppers Ivan Beerkus and Angela Nikolau ascended the tower’s spire, sparking more outrage over the security of the building. Malaysian authorities requested the pair’s entrance and departure records from the Immigration Department, which stated that no documentation of the couple entering or leaving Malaysia existed, implying that they illegally entered the country.


Merdeka 118 Tower is also planned to be one of the capital’s most opulent residential and commercial experiences, with the seven-story mall creating a new retail experience for both residents and tourists. It is seen as a significant investment in Kuala Lumpur’s urban development. However, it is not without its detractors, who view it as a waste of public funds that could have been put to far better use in improving the country’s educational and medical infrastructure. Yet, others view it as a necessary development that will provide many jobs and business opportunities for the region. 




Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Merdeka 118 Tower?

It is a massive new tower being built in Kuala Lumpur and is ranked as both Southeast Asia’s tallest structure, as well as the second tallest structure in the entire world! It is a mixed-use structure that will comprise residences, offices, a massive mall, and a hotel. It is set to be ready to take on occupants from mid-2023.


Were There Any Criticisms About the Merdeka 118 Tower?

The development has been criticized for its excessive cost, which has raised worries about the tower’s long-term viability as an investment. Because it is being erected so close to various historic landmarks and structures, some have denounced the tower’s development as a danger to the conservation of Kuala Lumpur’s historical and cultural legacy. There are also fears that the development of the Merdeka 118 Tower would drive up property values in the neighboring region, making it harder for locals to live there.


What Will the Merdeka 118 Tower Comprise When Completed?

The tower will be a mixed-use building and will feature 83 stories of top-quality office spaces. The Park Hyatt Hotel is also opening its first branch in Malaysia in the tower and will occupy 17 stories of the building. There will also be a massive mall that will occupy seven stories of the building. Called 118 Mall, it is anticipated to open to the public in 2024. To accommodate the tenants and hotel clients, there are six stories of underground parking, with more than 8,000 parking spaces situated right underneath the floors of the offices. The spire, which is 40 stories in height, will be illuminated by more than 860 LED lights.


Have There Been Any Incidents at Merdeka 118 Tower?

A common problem faced by nearly all of the tallest buildings in the world is that of skyscraper climbers and urban explorers. These people find tall buildings irresistible and often try to either scale or walk their way to the top, usually while the building is still under construction. This happened twice in 2022. On the first occasion, a group of Americans managed to walk to the top of the building. Not long after, two Russians managed to scale the spire of the tower. These incidents led to criticisms of the building’ apparent lack of appropriate security.


Cite this Article

Justin, van Huyssteen, “Merdeka 118 – Redefining the Kuala Lumpur Skyline.” Art in Context. September 7, 2023. URL:

van Huyssteen, J. (2023, 7 September). Merdeka 118 – Redefining the Kuala Lumpur Skyline. Art in Context.

van Huyssteen, Justin. “Merdeka 118 – Redefining the Kuala Lumpur Skyline.” Art in Context, September 7, 2023.

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