Dubai inaugurated Burj Dubai (now Burj Khalifa after Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE), the world’s tallest building, with a spectacular display of sound, light, water and fireworks on Monday. Burj Dubai, a development of Emaar properties, stands at more than 800 meters (2,625 ft) high with 160 storeys, making it the tallest man-made structure ever built.
“This is not just a building that’s a little bit bigger than other buildings. It’s much bigger,” Christian Koch, Director of International Studies at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai told The Media Line. “Everybody will know about it. This is certainly going to represent the status of Dubai and the Arab Gulf as a whole for many years.”
Tower pointing away from oil-based economy?
Dubai’s government has been focusing its efforts on several grandiose construction initiatives, aiming to diversify the emirates’ oil-based economy towards real estate, services and tourism. It is hoped a project like Burj Dubai will help attract international attention and in turn, investment.
Construction of the Burj Dubai began in September 2004 and was completed in October at a cost of around $4.1 billion. The tower breaks several world records, including the tallest skyscraper to the top of the spire, the tallest structure and the building with the most floors, a record that was previously held by the two World Trade Center buildings which had 110 floors each. It will also be the world’s tallest structure to include residential space.
“It just shows you that projects do get completed around here,” Koch said. “The idea that everything has ground to a halt here is just not true.” Dubai, one of the seven sheikhdoms that comprise the United Arab Emirates, is currently mired in a serious economic crisis after the state owned Dubai World revealed last month it was in heavy debt. “Dubai was overreaching a bit over the last couple of years, but the Burj Dubai was planned way ahead of some of the excesses we’ve seen in 2007 and 2008,” Koch said.
“When they decided to try build three palm islands, or another ski dome, or a building even taller than the Burj Dubai, this was all overreaching, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is reflective of greed or the desire to have the biggest and the best. There was a vision, there was an opportunity and at the end of the day, despite the financial crises, they did it.”
Experts descended on Dubai
Monday’s opening ceremony inaugurated what will become a new icon in the world’s urban landscape and the pinnacle of Dubai’s decade-long construction boom. Experts from France, Britain and the United States collaborated on the event, which was broadcast on screens scattered throughout the city and attended by Dubai’s ruler Muhammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Political and business leaders hope the long awaited grand opening of the Burj Dubai will recast the city state in a new light.
“This is a city that wanted to turn itself almost overnight from a regional center to a global hub,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of Political Science at UAE University told The Media Line. “They succeeded, and in a way they needed the Burj Dubai to symbolize that success.
“But the Burj has come to symbolize many contradictory things,” he said. “The city is dealing with a very difficult financial situation and is full of negative energy and doubt, but has shown it is incredibly determined to realize its aspirations and dreams.
“The Dubai World crisis has created a lot of doubt and a loss of confidence in the city’s management,” Professor Abdulla said. “The city has landed. It’s not a crash landing, but Dubai has been brought back down to earth.” “So in a way the brand Dubai has a big dent in it,” he said. “In the process of rebuilding confidence and credibility, we really needed something like this to help smooth out that dent.
“The sadness,” he added, “is that the Burj Dubai was completed when the lights were still on but the party was over.”
Burj Dubai in numbers:
The spire of the tower can be seen from 95 kilometers away
The building will include 160 luxury hotel rooms and suites
During construction, concrete was pumped vertically to a height of 605 meters, breaking a world record for concrete pumping
The main service elevator travels a distance of 504 meters
The building will include 49 office floors and 1,044 residential apartments
Burj Dubai has 57 elevators It has 3,000 underground parking spaces
The tower’s service lift has a capacity of lifting
5,500 kilograms 31,400 metric tons of steel reinforcing bar was used in the construction
28,261 glass cladding panels make up the exterior of the tower and its two annexes
15,000 liters of water were collected from the tower’s cooling equipment and will be used for landscaping irrigation
The floor of the tower houses the 900-foot-long Dubai Fountain, the world’s tallest operating fountain
During the peak of construction there were 12,000 workers on site
The price of office space at Burj Dubai will be around $4,000 per square foot