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9804399_941dd2c22eFour full years before that day when New York’s Freedom Tower swings its doors open for business, the Burj Dubai Tower (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) continues its lofty climb into the sky. Earlier this year the skyscraper had eclipsed the Empire State Building in overall height. As of this writing, it has trumped the former twin towers of the World Trade Center. Very soon it should surpass America’s tallest building, Chicago’s Sears Tower, as it continues its bold, unprecedented push into the sky.

Deemed a “super-tall” construction by celebrated architect Adrian Smith (formerly of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill - the group currently working on Manhattan’s Freedom Tower), the Burj Dubai is moving into uncharted territory and pushing for a world record height that remains a well-guarded secret. “Emaar, our client, definitely wants Burj Dubai to be the tallest building in the world upon completion” says Smith. “We may include elements that can grow during construction, if needed. You know from the history of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building that height can be added to the design during construction.”

An overall height around the 2,600’ level is casually tossed about by insiders, with staggering marks well over 3000’ also reported, although few believe the tower will make it this high. For some well-needed perspective it’s worthy to note that the world’s tallest building, Taipei 101, stands only 1,671’ above street level, nearly 1000’ lower than the likely target point for this formidable giant in the making.

A look at other notable skyscrapers shows just how special this building will be. Former world champion Petronas Towers (Kuala Lumpur) tags in at 1,483.’ America’s reining champ Sears Tower stretches to 1, 451,’ while the iconic Empire State Building, famous for oversized apes, off-course airplanes and helpless damsels, seems almost lost amongst theses cloud-splitters at a paltry 1, 250.’  Surprisingly, for all its celebration and hoopla, New York’s long anticipated Freedom Tower will push its spire to a symbolic, if downright measly 1,776.’ Not exactly a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
The Burj Dubai Tower will be at least 160 stories tall, a figure that plops another 50 stories onto the old record of 110 held by Chicago’s Sears Tower. In keeping with the project’s mysterious nature, its elevators inexplicably read up to 195 floors, strongly suggesting that the final tally may be higher still. 

Construction of the building has progressed at an absurdly rapid rate, particularly when compared to red tape laden super-projects currently underway in the United States. Other than a brief work stoppage due to a labor dispute and subsequent strike, the building has made magnificent strides since it first broke ground on February 1st, 2005. If all goes well, the project should “top out” in June, 2009.

No matter what height the Burj Dubai finally claims for itself, one thing seems certain. America’s proud heritage of hosting the world’s tallest buildings has now been obliterated by hungry, well-heeled nations on the rise, and the trend promises to continue, at least for the foreseeable future. As things stand it would likely take a substantial shift in America’s economic climate/mindset to regain the title. A maverick spirit, a boatload of cash and the unbridled chutzpah to once again “go tall” could put the Stars and Stripes back in the running, although at present no one seems to be stepping up to the plate.
In the meantime, the Burj Dubai Tower, lofty beggar of superlatives, will be looking down on all of us. Literally. 

Posted by Jeff Bahr



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