Burj Dubai, Renamed Burg Khalifa, Opens With A Bang

Genesis 11:4
: 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves"

And they certainly have made a name for themselves in Dubai, with the opening of the Burj Dubai Monday. They put on the most spectacular fireworks display; it seems like a miracle that it didn't end up like Rem's hotel in China. It is now renamed the Burj Khalifa, which is kind of like renaming the Citicorp Tower the Bailout Building, after Abu Dhabi's Sheik Khalifa, who bailed out Dubai last month.

Architecturally, it is getting some good reviews.


New York Times graphic comparing heights; click to enlarge

Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times writes:

As super-tall buildings go, the Burj Dubai is elegant. Smith is an unusually talented shaper of skyscraper form, as he proved at Shanghai's 88-story Jin Mao Tower, which he designed before leaving SOM in 2006. The Burj Dubai's profile, which Smith says is inspired by a range of local influences including sand dunes and minarets, grows more slender as it rises, like a plant whose upper stalks have been peeled away.

Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune concurs.

In contrast to Dubai's preposterous collection of architectural cartoons - here, a big-bellied tower that suggests an oversize perfume bottle; there, a paper-thin skyscraper that looks like someone sliced a giant hole in its top with a pair of scissors - the Burj Dubai offers God-is-in-the-details articulation along with its dazzling shape.....

From a distance, the Burj Dubai looks like a Middle Eastern version of Oz - not oppressive, but beckoning; inevitably, not freakishly, tall. Smith kept reworking the top to get the proportions right and his tweaking paid off. Here, in contrast to the disappointing flagpole-like spire at Chicago's Trump Tower, the skyscraper and its subtly spiraling setbacks mount rhythmically to a thrilling climax.

On Deutsche Welle, German architect Christian Baumgart disagreed.

One thing is sure though: what has become a glass and ferroconcrete desert hardly represents a sustainable contribution to building practices around the world.

Back in the LA Times, Hawthorne concludes that the ideas behind it are already dead.

The hyper-confident Dubai that Smith's tower was designed to mark and call global attention to is already dead, as is the broader notion, which the emirate came to symbolize over the last decade, that growth can operate as its own economic engine, feeding endlessly and ravenously on itself.

If the Burj Dubai is too shiny, confidently designed and expertly engineered to be a ruin itself, it is surely the marker -- the tombstone -- for some ruined ideas.

But the Los Angeles Times, in an editorial, notes that it is really more like the Empire State Building than the Tower of Babel- it opened in the middle of the Depression and was nicknamed the "Empty State Building" because of its lack of tenants. But the Times notes that "the Art Deco masterpiece was a spectacular accomplishment for its time, a statement about the optimism of its builders, the might of its city and the pride of its nation."

Who knows what we will think of the Burj Whatever in eighty years.

More on the Burj Khalifa:

2.3 Gigapixels of the Burj Dubai Stitched Together From 381 Images
My Phallic Symbol is Bigger than Yours

Burj Dubai, Renamed Burg Khalifa, Opens With A Bang
Genesis 11:4: 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves"

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