Towering at 2,712 feet, the world's tallest tower officially opens
today in Dubai. The newly-renamed
Burj Khalifa tower boasts over
160 stories and can be seen from more than 60 miles away. As the Times
of London gushes, "Its
façade was shipped from China, its marble from Italy, its veneers from
Brazil." But while architecture connoisseurs geek out, others can't
help but note that its home emirate, Dubai, is drowning in debt and reeling
from the collapse of its epic real estate bubble. (Catch up on Dubai's woes here
, and here
.) Does the giant
structure symbolize astounding hubris or unparalleled innovation?
- Expertly Designed, writes Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine: "How delicate the unwieldy giant looks and feels (and how fast you can
get from top to bottom -- in elevators that run up to 40 mph) is a
tribute to designer Adrian Smith and engineer Bill Baker... [It's] taller than
Chicago's Sears Tower -- even if you put the Hancock Tower on top of it."
- Architecturally Uncanny, writes Blair Kamin
at The Chicago Tribune: "The tower is remarkably tall and remarkably
thin because of its
innovative structural system: a six-sided core of concrete buttressed
by massive concrete walls that support the three wings of the Y-shaped
skyscraper. These cost-efficient, wind-resisting bones are sheathed in
a sophisticated skin of double-layered glass and aluminum... At the
156th floor, the concrete is replaced by
an inner structure of steel, which carries the glass-sheathed, mostly
unoccupied portion of the skyscraper - all 600-plus feet of it - to the
summit, which reportedly rises 2,684 feet above the desert floor."
Bursting with civic pride, Kamin adds, "Thanks to its Chicago-based
architects and engineers, it possesses the
quality and artistry that will enable it to take its place not only in
the record books but also among the pantheon of the world's iconic
- Think Excess, Not Success, writes David Roeder at The Chicago Sun-Times: "The slender, sculpted skyscraper was built for a free-spending and
status-conscious class that no longer exists. Debt is crashing down all
around Dubai, so the tower could become a monument, not to national
success, but to irrational excess."
- An Example of Mankind's "Edifice Complex," writes Ben Macintyre in the Times of London: "As in finance, so in politics. Rulers, particularly autocrats, tend
to succumb to what has been called the 'edifice complex', the urge to
build on a vast scale, often just before being toppled...It is a beautiful object, a
remarkable testament to human ingenuity, engineering and megalomania.
As Dubai's economy totters and sways, it may turn out to be a
monumental folly, the latest example of Man's need to build ever
upwards regardless of cost, need or sense."
- Say What You Want, It Was a Profitable Venture, notes Wayne Arnold at
The National. Emaar Properties, the company that built Burj Dubai, is
already in the black, reports Arnold: "After selling 90 per cent of the
units in the record-setting edifice,
Emaar has pocketed a profit of at least 10 per cent on the US$1.5
billion (Dh5.51bn) cost of construction."
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