The Colossal Burj Dubai Debuts as the Tallest Building in the World
Dubai may be broke, but financial woes aren’t stopping the sheikdom from celebrating the grand opening of the 2,716-foot Burj Dubai, a mega skyscraper almost twice as high as New York’s Empire State Building. Although the construction on the 160-story tower finished in October, the emirate officially unveiled the skyscraper today during a lavish ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Persian Gulf metropolis.
The exact height of The Burj was a hushed secret before today’s fireworks and festivities, but it was revealed today that the tower’s final height is 2,716 feet. Stretching a half mile into the sky, the sheer size of the glass and concrete spire is staggering, earning The Burj the distinction as the tallest building in the world. The Burj soars above the Arabian desert, trumping the world’s previous tallest structure recordings, including Taiwan’s Taipei 101, the Willis (nee Sears) Tower in Chicago, Shanghai World Financial Center, and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Burj also claims other engineering titles, including the record for the world’s highest freestanding man-made structure. The architectural marvel boasts the world’s longest elevator, the world’s highest mosque on the 158th floor, and the world’s highest swimming pool on the 76th floor. The Bellagio-like dancing water fountain at the base of the tower is also the largest of its kind.
Supposedly based on a visionary skyscraper blueprint by Frank Lloyd Wright, The Burj was designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, a Chicago-based architecture firm with a prestigious portfolio that includes the Willis Tower, New York’s Time Warner Center, and the proposed Freedom Tower at 1 World Trade Center. According to the BBC, the $1.5 billion structure has 49 floors of office space, over 28,000 glass panels on its exterior, and can be seen on the horizon from over 50 miles away.
In addition to a dizzying observation deck with stunning panoramic views and nose-bleed residences and corporate suites, the tower includes the uber-opulent, 160-room Armani Hotel Dubai. The hotel is designed by Giorgio Armani and facilities include a 15,000-square foot fitness center, four
luxurious swimming pools, a spa, and a cigar club.
Over the last Decade, Dubai has emerged as a jet-set vacation destination known for grandiose displays of wealth and excess. Founded on oil wealth, the city is littered with luxury resorts and entertains the world’s largest indoor ski slope and the world’s only seven-star hotel. However, The Burj debuts just a month after Dubai announced it couldn’t foot the bill for an over $3.5 billion dollar loan repayment in late November; real estate prices in the financially troubled city have plummeted. According to the Wall Street Journal, the government-owned development conglomerate is struggling with an estimated $80 billion in debt.
In the meantime, The Burj will hold the title as the tallest building in the world until at least 2014, when an announced project to build a 5,250 foot tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, dwarfs the tower and overtakes the distinction as the tallest building in the world. Although ground has yet to be broken in Jeddah for the so-called Mile-High Tower, over $10 billion has been dedicated to the project. [Ed.’s note: Why not just make it 5,280 feet? The 30 feet would have killed you Saudi Arabia?]
In May 2008, two base jumpers infiltrated the Burj and jumped off the 160th floor of the building. Hear their story and watch a video of their breathtaking descent (and how they got away with it) below: