The foundation work for Burj Dubai (Dubai Tower), whose height remains a secret, was completed last month with 192 piles constructed to depths of more than 50m (164ft) and bound together by a thick concrete raft.

  

Part of a $20 billion project, the tower will be built at a rate of one floor a week.

  

"The building itself is a mixed use building," said Robert Booth, executive director of EMAAR properties, which is developing the tower to serve as the centrepiece of the Burj Dubai District and Downtown Dubai.

 

"There's about 3.7 million square feet of built-up density in the building and it's got retail, entertainment, hotel, residences, private corporate suites and an observation deck," Booth said, pointing to a model at the site.

  

"The first portion of the building that we released to the public was the residences," he said.

 

Panoramic views

  

And almost all 700 units, boasting panoramic views of Dubai, have already been sold to buyers from around the globe.

 

The tower is due to open in
December 2008

South Korea's Samsung Corporation has the $1billion construction contract for the tower, which will cost $2billion dollars in all. It is due to open in December 2008.

  

"In total, we have over 500 consultants working around the world for us on this project on any given day. They are probably in about 20 different countries," Booth said.

  

"We've assembled the leading tall tower specialists in the world."

  

The project is vast. Burj Dubai will tower over the adjacent Dubai Mall, said to become the world's largest and due for completion in late 2007, a luxury hotel, high-rise apartment blocks, man-made lakes and landscaped parks, all cushioned in by a 3km boulevard.

 

Construction peak

  

At its construction peak, more than 20,000 workers will be labouring to create 45 million sqft of space for 30,000 homes, "making the Burj Dubai site the biggest single construction site in the world", Booth said.

 

Burj Dubai will tower over the
adjacent Dubai Mall

As for the height of the tower, "you have to guess," he said, as a mock elevator at the site displayed a button for the 189th floor.

  

"There will only ever be two people who know how tall it is, the chairman of EMAAR and probably the building manager," he said.

  

"We don't think the building is about the height, this is about creating a global architectural icon. We realise it'll never be the tallest forever so why focus on height?

  

"We want to talk about quality. Let's have a bit of fun with this and do something differently and keep people guessing."

 

Tourist magnet

  

Burj Dubai has been designed so as the height can be changed while under construction, Booth said.

  

The skyscraper is expected to become a tourist magnet, drawing nearly three million a year to marvel at its height and grandeur.

  

"It's probably the best located piece of land in all of Dubai. It is what it is today because it was a military base for 30 years"

Robert Booth,
executive director,
EMAAR properties

About 25 million sqft of the entire project, covering 550 acres of land, is currently under construction.

  

"It's probably the best located piece of land in all of Dubai. It is what it is today because it was a military base for 30 years ... It's the heart of all of the major high-density area."

  

The whole project will be completed by 2010, but "the bulk of it will be complete when the tower opens up," he said.

  

Burj Dubai was designed by Adrian Smith of Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Smith designed the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai, the world's third tallest tower.

  

The Burj Dubai development is part of a huge construction drive, designed to consolidate the status of this Gulf emirate as a regional business, services and tourism hub.