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Updated: November 22, 2009 16:17 IST

Arabian heights

Subha J Rao
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Burj Dubai: Subha J Rao takes an ear-popping ride to the observation deck of the world's tallest building, and literally touches the clouds

I don't like heights, and I hate elevators! So, my visit to Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building, had every possibility of ending up as a disaster.

After a light breakfast, shod in my ready-to-bite shoes and covered in misgivings, I take deep breaths before the dizzying ride up to the 124th floor observation deck of the 800-plus metre Burj Dubai. The building dominates Downtown Burj Dubai, the flagship project of Emaar Properties.

My fears are unfounded. The service elevators rush us to the observation deck in under two minutes, and my ears pop only once.

Once there, a flurry of activity greets the eye. More than 10,000 workers (12,000 to 13,000 during the peak construction phase) race against time to spruce up the tower that rears up to meet the sky.

The attention to detail is admirable. As you make your way gingerly to the observation deck, you see groups of workers touching up that little extra plaster on the ceiling, and polishing the last grain on the tiles to a dazzling shine. Not surprising, considering this tower has broken records as it grew level by level, and this is where the first Giorgio Armani hotel in the world will come up!

The Armani Hotel Dubai offers 160 guest rooms and suites, restaurants and a spa, covering more than 40,000 sq.m. And, then, there are the Armani Residences (144 one- and two-bedroom suites), located on levels nine to 16, designed by Giorgio Armani.

The glass-tinted observation deck opens to a 360-degree view of Dubai. Everywhere you turn, are small, medium and tall-rises, now dwarfed by the sheer height of Burj Dubai. Many of Dubai's earliest high-rises now resemble tiny specks. And yes, aeroplanes fly lower than the tower's spire!

The observation deck will boast hi-tech telescopes that will bring the world below a little closer. And, the focus is not just on awe-inspiring views. En route to the deck from the reception, a multi-media presentation of Dubai's history and the Burj Dubai will help place the tower in its historical and geographical perspective, rather than just as a superlative piece of architecture.

Burj Dubai, work on which began in January 2004, has a whole lot of firsts to its credit. It has officially overtaken the KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota (2,063 ft), till now the world's tallest man-made structure, and Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world since it opened in 2004.

Records galore

Burj Dubai is expected to fulfill all the criteria of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, which ranks the world's tallest buildings on the basis of spire height, the highest occupied floor, roof height and pinnacle height. It will be thrown open on January 4, 2010, to coincide with the accession day of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

The tower, wrapped in a cocoon of glass, stainless steel and aluminium, will have a bevy of corporate suite offices, 900 residences, spread over levels 19 to 108 of the tower, four luxurious pools, a cigar club, restaurants, a library, a 15,000-sq ft fitness centre and an exclusive resident's lounge.

Plus, those lucky enough to own a piece of real estate in this tower (oversubscribed within hours of the project's announcement) will get to witness the world's tallest performing fountain — the Dubai fountain, which shoots misty silver jets as high as 500 ft (think 50-storey buildings!) to the tune of music — right from their homes and offices! It has been designed by WET, which came up with the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas.

Artistic touch

But, Burj Dubai, designed by Adrian Smith and with Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings and Merrill as architects and engineers, is not just all steel and concrete alone. More than a thousand specially commissioned works by prominent international and Middle-Eastern artists, including ‘World Voices' by Jaume Plensa, composed of 196 cymbals representing the world's countries, will add a whole new dimension to living and working here. Quite fitting, really, for the building — designed like three petals arranged around a central core — is inspired by the hymenocallis, a desert flower native to the area!

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