At 830 metres, the Burj Khalifa tower is the world’s largest ‘megatall’ skyscraper. It’s located in Dubai’s Downtown district and looms large over the whole city. It’s a grand symbol of the city’s successes and ambitions, but came to exist amid many trials and challenges.

The facts

The Burj Khalifa has 160 storeys, the world’s tallest service elevator, and the highest outdoor observation deck in the world. It’s the world’s tallest freestanding structure. It’s about 300 metres taller than North Dakota’s KVLY-TV mast, the world’s second-tallest structure.

It was originally named the Burj Dubai.
It cost approximately AUD$1,973,250,000 to produce.

Chicago’s Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) won the tender to design the Burj Dubai. Adrian Smith FAIA, RIBA, was the consulting design partner for the job. SOM’s previous projects include the Willis Tower and One World Trade Center.

The architecture features a triple-lobed Y-shaped footprint. SOM borrowed this structural characteristic from the hymenocallis flower. A sculpted spire sits at the very peak. As part of design and construction, SOM conducted more than 40 wind tunnel tests to make sure the tower could handle the environmental pressures which occur at over 2,500 feet.

Its design incorporates elements from the region’s traditional Islamic architecture, including Malwiya Tower, which is a spiraling minaret part of the Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq.

The tower will host the Armani Hotel Dubai and the one- and two-bedroom Armani Residences. Right now, private ultra-luxury residences sit on floors 45 through 108. Corporate suites occupy the remaining floors. The tower’s public observatory is on level 124.

For the comfort and pleasure of patrons, Sky Lobbies on floors 43, 76 and 123 feature fitness facilities, jacuzzis, recreation rooms, and swimming pools. The tower also has a residents’ library, a gourmet convenience store called Lafayette Gourmet, and valet parking.

The now-iconic Dubai Fountain sits at the Burj Khalifa’s base. The feature is illuminated by 6,600 lights, 50 coloured projectors, and its jets shoot water 150 metres into the air. Classical western and contemporary Arabic music accompanies the display. It cost 800 million Dirhams (about AUD$286,523,287).

In March 2009, office space in the tower cost US$4,000 (approx. AUD$5,260) per square foot; the Armani Residences US$3,500 (approx. AUD$4,602) per square foot.


The lead-up

In the early 2000s as earlier, Dubai had most of its interest set in oil. Back then oil accounted for the majority of Dubai’s gargantuan economic wealth. Today that’s still the case. The UAE government devised the Burj Khalifa as part of a movement to diversify the city’s economy beyond the region’s chief export. The city set its eyes upon its tourist industry, upon worldwide recognition, and needed a trademark. They wanted grandiosity and futurism.

Construction began in 2004. The exterior was completed in 2009.


The troubles

 Due to the global financial crisis of 2007-2012, Dubai’s residential and commercial property markets suffered high vacancies and foreclosures. The city was wrecked by overbuilding, and the plummeting market prices threatened to devalue the still-to-open Burj Dubai beyond any future commercial feasibility.

Dubai, crippled by debt, sought a multi-billion-dollar bailout from the Abu Dhabi government. Abu Dhabi obliged. So the Dubai government renamed the Burj Dubai the Burj Khalifa, in honour of Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates. The revelation came at the tower’s opening ceremony on 4 January 2010, taking many by surprise.

Within 10 months of its opening, 825 of the 900 apartments in the Burj Khalifa were unoccupied. In 2012 Emaar Properties reported that approximately 80% of the Burj Khalifa’s apartments had been rented.


Experiencing the Burj Khalifa and surrounds

 The Burj Khalifa’s premier tourist attraction is its At the Top observation deck experience. At the Top affords sublime 360-degree views of the Dubai skyline from three decks: one each on the 124th and 125th floors, and one special ‘sky’ deck on the 148th floor.

Entry will cost you around $44 for adults and $25 for kids during non-prime hours and $70 for adults and $50 for kids during prime hours.

Spend a day in Downtown Dubai and you can combine a visit to the Burj Khalifa with stops at other renowned attractions located nearby.

The monolithic Dubai Mall, at 12 million square feet, features 1,200 retail stores, two flagship department stores and more than 200 places to eat and drink. The Souk, one of its most popular shopping precincts, features high-end jewellery boutiques, traditional Arabic handicrafts, and a late-Jurassic-period dinosaur exhibit.

Gaze in awe at the Dubai Fountain, ride the hydrogen-powered Dubai Trolley from Dubai Mall all the way to Manzil Downtown or Vida Downtown, or get lost in ‘The Centre of Now.’

Dubai’s approach to tourism – attractions for the sake of attractions – give the central areas of the city an amusement park-like novelty. Dubai is a place of dizzying excess designed to amaze you at every turn. So let it overwhelm you.


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