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Middle East
Dubai opens world's tallest tower
Emirate hopes latest venture will help it rise above last year's debt difficulties.
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2010 19:23 GMT

The building's opening is seen as part of an effort to salvage Dubai's reputation

Dubai has opened the world's tallest building as the emirate tries to re-establish some of the optimism it experienced prior to its financial crisis.

Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, on Monday inaugurated the tower - originally called Burj Dubai - as Burj Khalifa in honour of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the president of the United Arab Emirates.

At a height of 828 metres, Burj Khalifa soars over its nearest rival - the Taipei 101 in Taiwan which rises to only 508 metres.

Dubai, one of seven members of the United Arab Emirates, has gained a reputation for excesses with the creation of man-made islands shaped like palms and an indoor ski slope in the desert.

But the emirate suffered a real estate crash at the end of 2008 when the global financial crisis hit.

Investor confidence was badly dented again in November when the emirate's largest conglomerate announced it planned to delay debt repayments.

Burj Khalifa's opening is seen as a positive start to the year and analysts believe Dubai's financial troubles have not hurt sales of the approximately 1,100 residential units in the "super-scraper".

Higher and higher

The Burj, which was developed by Emaar Properties, is believed to have cost $1.5bn and taken about 12,000 labourers to build.

The Burj Khalifa in numbers
Burj dubai comparison
Click image to enlarge

828m - height
57 - number of lifts
169 - number of floors
1,044 - number of apartments
31,400 - tonnes of steel used
330,000  - cubic metres of concrete used
$1.5bn - estimated cost
95 km - the distance it can be seen from
10C - cooler at the top than the bottom
158 - floor where "highest" mosque is planned
76 - floor of "highest" swimming pool
12,000 - number of labourers who toiled
$5 - daily wage of a labourer
$3m - price of a 80th floor one-bedroom apartment in 2008

"The message is very simple ... we build for tens of years to come," Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Dubai's Emaar properties, said.

"Crises come and go and the world has gone through two years of difficult times," he said. "I hope that this is the beginning of a gradual move forward."

Bill Baker, the building's structural engineer, said Emaar kept pushing the design of the the tapering metal-and-glass spire higher.

"We weren't sure how high we could go," Baker, who works for Chicago-based architecture and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, said.

"It was kind of an exploration ... a learning experience."

However, the building has come in for criticism over the treatment of labourers during its construction, its environmental impact and the signals it sends in a time of financial crisis.

"Nobody knows where the planning hubris of the sheikhs will lead," Christian Baumgart, the president of Germany's architect's association, said.
 
"One thing is sure though: what has become a glass and ferroconcrete desert hardly represents a sustainable contribution to building practices around the world."

Real estate bubble

At their peak, some apartments in the Burj were selling for more than $1,900 per square foot, though they now can go for less than half that, according to Heather Wipperman Amiji, chief executive of Dubai real estate consultancy Investment Boutique.

Al Jazeera's Dan Nolan, reporting from Dubai, said that about 95 per cent of the real estate in the tower was sold three years ago.

"That was at the top of the market and the real estate bubble has well and truly burst since then, so as for how many people will actually move in no one really knows," he said.

"Obviously most of those people were speculators who were never planning to move in."

Besides luxury apartments and offices, the Burj will be home to a hotel designed by Giorgio Armani.

The Burj is the centrepiece of a more than two kilometres squared development that officials hope will become a new central residential and commercial district.

It is flanked by dozens of smaller but brand-new skyscrapers and the Middle East's largest shopping mall.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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