When Cary Grant’s character agreed to meet up with Deborah Kerr’s in six months at the top of the tallest building in the world to see if they were really meant for each other, there was no doubt at the time that the meeting place would be the Empire State Building in New York. If the movie “An Affair to Remember” were shot today, the two would have met instead in the Middle East. More specifically, they would have met at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world today.
Started Out as Burj Dubai
The building was initially known as the Burj Dubai and construction began in September 2004. It is part of the two square kilometer development called Downtown Dubai and features both office space and residential units designed by the renowned Italian luxury creator Giorgio Armani.
The building was designed and engineered by the Chicago company called Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Adrian Smith served as its chief architect while Bill Baker was the head structural engineer. The South Korean firm called Samsung C&T was the building’s main contractor.
By the time the project was completed however, the world was in the midst of a global financial crisis. As a result, there were a lot of vacancies in the building. Most of the units in the Armani Residences had remained unsold. Faced with potential embarrassment because of the situation, Dubai was left with no choice but to seek the assistance of its fellow member in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi. The Emir of Abu Dhabi, Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, who was also the President of the United Arab Emirates, served as Dubai’s white knight and poured in billions of dollars in bailout money. In honor of the Abu Dhabi Emir, the building was renamed as Burj Khalifa during its opening night.
How the Burj Khalifa Came to be
The property prices in Dubai remained depressed even after its lavish opening night. Almost a year after its inauguration, rental prices for its office units had dropped by as much as 40 percent. Only 75 apartments were sold out of the 900, leaving much of the place deserted.
Things slowly picked up however. By 2012, the market was able to recover somewhat. By October of that year, a full 80 percent of the building’s luxurious apartments had been sold.
Tallest Building, Lofty Records
(A view from the top of the building)
The Burj Khalifa owns the distinction of owning several records, with almost all of it related to its height. Among these records are the following:
Tallest structure ever built at 829.8 meters, surpassing the previous record held by the Warsaw radio mast.
Tallest existing structure, surpassing the old record held by KVLY-TV mast.
Tallest freestanding structure, surpassing the old record held by the CN Tower.
Tallest skyscraper to the top of the spire, beating the record of Taipei 101.
Tallest skyscraper to the top of the antenna, beating the previous record held by Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower.
Tallest structure with residential space.
Building with the most number of floors at 163, breaking the old record of the World Trade Center.
Building with the highest occupied floor in the world.
Highest installation of an elevator in the world, with one situated inside a rod at the very top of the skyscraper.
Longest travel distance elevators.
Highest vertical concrete pumping for a building at 606 meters.
Highest installation of an aluminum and glass façade at 512 meters.
Highest nightclub in the world at the building’s 144th floor.
Highest restaurant in the world at the building’s 122nd floor with a height of 442 meters, beating the old record of 350 meters held by 360 in CN Tower.
Highest display of fireworks to celebrate the New Year.
In addition to the above mentioned records, Burj Khalifa also has the second highest swimming pool in the world at its 76th floor, behind that of Ritz Carlton Hotel at the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong where the pool is located at the 118th floor.
Burj Khalifa also has the second highest outside observation deck in the world called At the Top at 452 meters on its 124th floor. It used to hold the record as the highest, but it has since been surpassed by the Cloud Top 488 at the top of Canton Tower in China.
The building also boasts of other fine features. The Dubai Fountain features nearly 6,600 lights and 50 colored projectors. It has a length of 275 meters and has the ability to shoot water up to 150 meters up into the air.
The fountain waters can dance and sway to the beat of different kind of music, ranging from the classical to contemporary world and Arabic songs. The fountain itself cost $217 million and built by WET Enterprises.
A park measuring 11 hectares also surrounds the skyscraper. Designed by the landscape architectural company called SWA Group, it took inspiration from the symmetries of the desert flower called the Hymenocallis, which was also the basis of the building itself. Burj Khalifa Park has six water features, gardens, walkways lined with palm trees and numerous flowering trees. Railings and benches all incorporate the images of the desert flower and the building. There is also a series of water jet fountains and pools to cool down the area and its surroundings.
To save on water, the plants and shrubs in the park are watered through the building’s condensation collection system that utilizes water from the building’s cooling system. This provides more than 68 million liters of water every year.
Awards and Recognition
Burj Khalifa has seen become a tourist attraction and icon of Dubai. It has received awards from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat and the Middle East Architect Awards. It has also received recognition from the International Interior Design Association and the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering.
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