Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa, formerly named Burj Dubai, is widely known as the tallest building on the planet but the tower is much more than a super-tall skyscraper. Seen from below, this impressive example of human ingenuity seems like a stairway to heaven, a spiraling construction that seems to disappear into the sky. The building was designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill of Chicago, with Adrian Smith as chief architect and Bill Baker as chief structural engineer. The main contractor was Samsung C&T from South Korea. The project's developer was Emaar Properties who is also responsible for building King Abdullah Economic City.

The United Arab Emirates is bordered by Oman and Saudi Arabia, and has access to the Persian Golf. This little patch of land at first sight has nothing to indicate a potential for development, a long time being the home for sea pirates. At the beginning of the 20th century, the pearl industry has seen some good times, but only for two or three decades, the Second World War marking the end of it. Having no more than sand we can imagine what the economic predictions were. When oil was discovered in the 60s, an economic boom started to resonate along the coast, now, the Emirates enjoy one of the highest life standards in the world, clearly offering them the possibility to build from virtually zero in a few decades what others built in a couple of centuries.

This burj (tower in Arabic) in spite of its height, is of a very simple design. The plan borrows from architectural elements prevalent in Islam, like the onion dome and the pointed arch. Some are of the opinion that Frank Lloyd's Mile High Illinois project from 1956 inspired the Burj Khalifa, also, the Tower Palace III from Seoul, also designed by SOM, has some resemblances with this Arabic tower.

Here you can clearly see the onion shaped dome and the pointed arch similarity.
Tower Palace III

In the center we have a concrete core that is buttressed by the three wings. The 60 cm thick corridor walls on either side of each wing give a great degree of stiffness, offering good resistance to earthquakes. Overall, the entire building is designed in such a way as to deviate the wind-flow around it, reducing the stress caused by the forces of nature. Baker says that the Burj "is really a series of 30-story buildings stacked on top of one another". Every 30 floors or so, two or three story mechanical levels (seven of these to be more exact) are placed in order to maintain the building in working order. Here we can find water pumps, tanks, electrical substantions and things like that.

The climate and geography of the area require different approaches. In a country where even the bus stops have air-conditioning, a building as big as the Burj Khalifa will need some way to efficiently ventilate the air. Because the outside temperature and moisture are considerably higher than in the building, the stack effect is reversed, hot air is sucked in from the top and directed downward. Another problem is water, or the lack of it. Dubai relies on sea water that goes through a process of desalinization so there is a real need to make use of the tower's full potential, the cold water is collected through condensation, providing 15 million gallons per year. Also, sand has the habit of getting into every hole, and to cover every space it can find, that is why ledges were kept to a minimum and the windows are washed every couple of months.
Here you can see the position of the Burj Khalifa complex inside the wider Downtown Dubai project.

Some 26 thousand low-E anti-glare glass panels are used in the exterior cladding. The tower used over 330 000 cubic meters of concrete and 43 000 tons of steel rebar. Burj Kalifa contains 57 elevators, the main service elevator rising to 503 meters, making it the world's highest, there are also two double-decker.

Samsung C&T Corporation, the main contractor, used an automated self-climbing formwork system for building the concrete structure. For pumping the concrete at heights of 600 meters, special pumps were used. The structural steel spire was built inside the building and then jacked to its full height of 200 meters through the use of hydraulic pumps.

Having such a high-end image, the tower incorporates the first Armani Hotel, something that for most of us does not mean much, but it's interesting to look at... to say the least. At levels five through eight, 160 guest rooms and suits were created, with suits on the 38 and 39 floors. Also, over 1000 works of art have been commissioned for being placed inside the burj.

A typical Armani Hotel floor plan.

 The typical Armani room.

Great view for the lucky few.

A great view of Dubai

Other Architecture Articles / دیگر مقالات معماری / Alte Articole de Arhitectura
This article is extended in Awil-um Magazine (August-September 2010)

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