Burj Dubai: Now the Tallest Building in the World

History Rising: Now 129 Levels Tall

Any day now Burj Dubai will overtake Taipei 101 and become the world's tallest building. It's already significantly higher than the Chicago Sears Tower (not counting the spire), and is quickly approaching the title of the highest concrete free-standing structure. Skyscraperpage forum has been quick to announce: "Ladies and Gentleman, the next tallest structure EVER built by the humans race !!!!!", and judging by the following pictures of construction progress, it will be a matter of only a few days.

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(images credit: Nakheel Properties)

Construction update:

- Designed by Chicago architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for Emaar Properties.
- Will house hotel and condominiums, be largely residential.
- Completion date: June 30, 2009
- 959 meters high, 189 - 200 floors?
- An observation deck will be located on the 124th floor.
- The top residential level will only be 8 meters wide.
- Will have the fastest elevators in the world with a speed of 700m/min (42.3 kmh / 26.1 mph)
- When finished, It will be almost 40% taller than the the current tallest building, the Taipei 101.

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(images credit: Hatim Saleh)

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Full-grown palm trees are being planted in boulevards around the building:

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Activity at the top:

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The Unimix company has just set a new world record for the highest single-stage pumping of concrete - 452 meters, and counting.

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First sections of glass are installed:
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(images credit: Imre Solt, Dubai Construction Update and Webshots - Dkysum)

Current size comparison with the Chicago's Sears Tower:
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Current stage in the construction process:
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image courtesy R. Braddish, Nakheel Properties

It will be interesting to see the planned construction crane, perched on top of the last concrete level - the highest crane location in the world.

"The construction is getting close to uncharted territories.
Now is a good time to start being scared." (Skyscraperpage forum)

But the buyers are not scared:
- A 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment has just been sold by EMAAR on floor 188 for $11,686,980 AED ($3,155,174 USD)
- The whole of floor 200 has just been sold to a private bidder for $16,766,575 AED ($4,527,975 USD, which is not so expensive, considering the hype. However, keep in mind that top floor is going to be only 8 meters wide) It also gives a hint that the building might exceed the 200 floor limit.

The building will be resistant to earthquakes, because of its relatively narrow "footprint". "It is actually the case that smaller buildings are more at risk if an earthquake happens. It is all to do with what we call the frequency. If you imagine a block on top of rows of marble, the taller the block is the more rigid it is." (source) The swing at the very top, however, can be quite substantial.

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(image courtesy by Fury, Skyscraperpage forum)

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(image courtesy ViperConcept, Germany)

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(more pictures at Burj Dubai Skyscraper and Dubai Online)

Frank Lloyd Wright's 1954 designs (for comparison):

Compare the form, design and vision of this never-built Frank Lloyd Wright's 1954 concept with Burj Dubai:

(image credit: Delmars.com)

The Rest of Dubai is similarly construction-crazed

The rising of the rest of the city is just as exciting to watch. You've probably seen this image of Dubai in 1990:
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Well, the city skyline already approaches Chicago-like density, and will be something to behold in the next few years:

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Here is what press has to say about modern Dubai:
- "This is a city on crack"
- "It has more construction workers than there are citizens of the city (note: over 80% of Dubai's population consists of expatriates)"
- "More than one-third of the construction cranes in the world are currently in Dubai"
- "Out of the 160 tallest completed/approved buildings in Dubai, only 3 were completed before 2000, and of those three, two were completed in 1999".

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(images credit: BurjDubaiSkyscraper and Skyscraperpage)

The Fabulous Dubai Waterfront

Next door to Burj Dubai is a site for another competitor for the "highest building" title: The Al Burj might even end up taller than Burj Dubai upon completion. The final height for either tower is not released, being a closely guarded secret.

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images courtesy Nakheel Properties

The Al Burj tower:

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And even if that's not enough...

There are rumors, and even a confirmed statement from the "Nakheel Properties" that another titanic superstructure will be built in Dubai, possibly eclipsing all currently proposed high-rise projects in the world.

The Ultimate "Burj", or simply the Tower, the 240-story, one-kilometer-tall (3,281 feet) spire would beat out the currently under-construction Burj Dubai, which is slated to hit around 2,300 feet when complete in 2009.

"The main challenger looks likely to rise up just a few miles from the Burj Dubai site. "Nakheel Properties" confirmed to Time Out that it is going to build a super structure somewhere in the city that will be very, very tall" Source:Time Out,Dubai.

Why build even bigger in Dubai? (Dubai is all set to have SIX super-towers by the year 2015) Well, because they have competition in Kuwait, quickly coming up in the approval stages:

Mubarak Tower, Kuwait: 1001m, 250 floors.

The proposed skyscraper to dwarf Burj Dubai will be located in Madinat al Hareer or "City of Silk" in Kuwait. The interesting thing about this project is that they don't even have the city there yet. The city (actually four inter-connected cities) is going to be built in 25 years.

"The City of Silk, described as "the new Manhattan", will cover a 250 sq. km site in Subiya, Northern Kuwait — transforming the area into a hub for up to 700,000 people.

The project will create a major new city at the gateway to the famous Silk Route across central Asia, and will be linked to Kuwait City by a new bridge — the Jabir Al Kabir"

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City of Silk (actually four cities in one):
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Size comparison with Burj Dubai:
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(images credit: Eric R. Kuhne and Associates)

The skyscraper could house 7000 people, but would cost an estimated £84bn to construct and could take 25 years to complete. It will also feature the world's first triple-decked elevators to move people up and down efficiently. The name of the 1001 metre tower is actually "The Burj al-Kabir Tower" (The Tower of 1001 Nights)

Cities in the Desert

Asia and Middle East are the new "high-rise" dream locations, bringing to mind fairy-tale analogies with "cities rising from the desert", "mirages" and "fata morganas" on the global scale.

(image credit: Thomas Weinberger)

William F. Baker, a partner at SOM Properties and the chief structural engineer of Burj Dubai, has summarized the world-wide phenomenon of this new type of 21st-century supertall proposals:

"If skyscraper construction had stopped in 1990, one would say that the tallest skyscrapers are made of steel, built in the United States, and are office buildings. Today, one would say that the tallest skyscrapers are made of concrete or composite, are erected in Asia or the Middle East, and likely to be residential." (source)

Look at this distribution of proposed and under-construction super-tall skyscraper projects in the world:
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image by Al Nakheel Properties.
Asian projects definitely dominate the scene (the globe on the right)

There are exceptions to the rule, of course:
For example, Buenos Aires, Argentina, is considering to build a full-size 1000 meter skyscraper, powered entirely by wind energy. (See this page for more info)

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Next few years are going to be really exciting for skyscraper enthusiasts of the world. First we'll see Burj Dubai finished, then Al Burj construction will start, the other mysterious titanic structure will be unveiled, plus Kuwait's super-tall tower may get underway.

Dubai is drinking the heady wine of unrestricted architectural ambition, which in turn, tempts every other well-funded government in the region to participate in the party. We are really hoping that hangover will never come.

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