In the desert metropolis of Dubai there is a beautiful flower, in its full bloom. Every time I see Burj Khalifa I pause in my tracks and I pause in my thoughts. Staring at it blankly, transfixed, fascinated, enchanted and perhaps hypnotized by its charm.I’m a city with more glitzy glass towers than one can count, Burj Khalifa “punctuates” the sky! It is far more sophisticated, even subtle, than one might expect. The tower is a shimmering silver needle, its delicacy as startling as its height.
It has a magnetism, soaring 828 meters, it is the world’s tallest building. Construction began in 2004, with the exterior completed 5 years later in 2009. The building was opened in 2010. Designed by Adrian Smith, then of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM).
“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.”-Christopher Hawthorne, architecture critic of the Los Angeles Times.
I want to share some architectural knowledge of Burj just so one can appreciate Burj’s twenty first century architectural ingenuity. It has an aesthetic quality, giving the Burj, a lyrical profile that brings to mind the “original slender” concept of skyscrapers. Whereas when viewed from the base, it is reminiscent of the domes prevalent in Islamic architecture.
The architecture features a triple-lobed footprint, an abstraction of the Hymenocallis flower.
The tower is composed of three elements arranged around a central core. Built of reinforced concrete and clad in glass, the building has a Y-shaped floor plan, with three lobes buttressing a hexagonal central core. This structural system enables the building to support itself laterally and keeps it from twisting.
The structure provides a lot of exterior walls with windows overlooking the Gulf and the desert. The first twenty or so floors are fairly bulky, giving the building a wide stance on the ground, but as it rises there is a spiralling sequence of setbacks*. By the time one gets about a third of the way to the top, the tower has gracefully changed into a slender building, and it keeps on narrowing until only a central section remains.
The setbacks, the Skidmore team likes to say, “confuse the wind.” As the building’s shape varies at each level, the wind cannot create an organized vortex around it, and hence the stress on the structure is reduced.
*A setback, sometimes called step-back, is a step-like recession in a wall.