Burj Khalifa is with its 828m the tallest building in the world. The lowest eight floors accommodate a hotel, followed by about 100 storeys of apartments and topped by 50 floors of corporate suites observation decks and broadcasting. The observation deck is on the 124th floor and grants a spectacular view over the city.
The architecture is well done with nice details and good execution. Responsible for it is SOM, a Chicago-based architectural practice specializing in tall buildings around the world. The design concept supposedly refers to the desert flower Hymenocallis, commonly known as Spider Lily. Unfortunately, this flower is not endemic to the Middle East but originates in tropical and semi-tropical region of the Americas. Also some geometric explanations linked to Islamic patterns seem less convincing in this context. So, let’s enjoy the architecture without a design idea that is possibly an afterthought.
Superlative architecture fulfills more the purpose of claiming recognition in the global community than of economic viability. So it should not come as a surprise that the top 30% percent of Burj Khalifa contain no usable space; we call it vanity height. Superlative architecture lives with the disadvantage of a perishable characteristic. One day, there will be a taller structure and the once first will be second and then sink into oblivion. Or do you remember which one is currently the third tallest structure in the world?
Many of the super-structures are being built towards the end of an economically prosperous phase and finished around respectively in the down turn: Empire State Building and the Great Depression, Willis Tower in Chicago and the Oil Crisis, Petronas Towers and the Asian Financial Crisis. Burj Khalifa, in reference to the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, only came to its name when it was inaugurated during the last economic crisis – before it was known as Burj Dubai.
And a curiosity at the end: the integrated façade cleaning system remains unused; individual rope climbers clean the 120,000m2 windows manually once every few months.