Check out page 34 of the current edition (Spring/Summer 2007) of the Harvard Design Magazine! The issue, subtitled "New Skyscrapers in Megacities on a Warming Globe," has several articles discussing the interplay of urbanization and high-rise buildings. It's an interesting dichotomy I've never considered: on the one hand, it's presumably better for the environment for people to move to the cities and get around on foot and via public transportation than to live in the suburbs and guzzle gallons of gas each day, but on the other hand, if moving to the city means building tall buildings, then the fact that tall buildings consumer enormous amounts of resources should also be considered. This being a "Design" magazine, the role tall buildings play in their cities is also discussed at length; essentially, no one has yet found a way to pleasantly incorporate skyscrapers into cities that isn't off-putting or mildly hostile. They go over the history of skyscrapers; in the 1960s it was all about maximum volume efficiency, but then not only was it discovered that people are unhappy working in cubicle farms, but also that these new-fangled "computers" need lots of wiring, which requires extra space between floors. Additionally, all these extra electronics means extra cooling is needed; extra cooling in turn means more energy consumption. And so on. After several articles of people talking about buildings generating their own energy and being "green," they have a nice article entitled, "No Building is an Island." It pleases me to know that there are people actually thinking about these kinds of impacts, both on local and global scales.
The other aspect discussed at length is the rapid increase in skyscrapers: apparently, as of June 2006, "40% of the world's 200 tallest buildings have been completed since 2000." Furthermore, many of these buildings are in countries essentially saying, "Look! Our *ahem* building is taller than yours; we must be important!!" I definitely found this to be the ambiance surrounding the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpor (I took the picture above, which was featured in this issue, looking down from the skybridge connecting the two towers about halfway up). The Petronas Towers were basically bought in order to showcase Kuala Lumpor for the rest of the world: in 1998, people were like, "Kuala Lumpor? Where's that? They have the tallest building(s) in the world now??" They are situated in the middle of a large park, the Kuala Lumpor City Centre (commonly referred to as the KLCC). There are essentially no other tall buildings nearby; the Menera Maxis building is actually directly adjacent and connected underground to the Towers, but as it is more than half as tall as the Towers themselves, from ground level they are nigh indistinguishable. From the sidewalk, there is just no good perspective; sure, they're tall, but I for one couldn't tell they were all that tall. For comparison, in March 2001 I stayed for a few nights at the Marriott World Trade Center in New York, and, yes, the World Trade Towers seemed quite tall, in part because they were noticeably so much taller than their already tall surroundings.
Having never even considered picking up and reading an architecture magazine before, I'm finding this to be rather entertaining and educational. If you can, you should go pick up a copy and read it. And check out the most excellent photography on page 34.