The Phallic Phoenix: Burj Dubai, the World’s Tallest Building, Opens
Building tall buildings has always been scene as a not-so-veiled attempt at becoming the biggest kid on the block. Tall buildings–alongside a robust military and an advanced space program–are symbolic of economic dominance and world significance on our busy, overcrowded planet. On Monday, Burj Dubai, the latest entrant in this ongoing contest, opens. Towering at more than 2600 feet tall (though, Emaar Properties, the building’s developer, won’t disclose the actual height), Burj Dubai is more than 1000 feet taller than its closest competitor, the Tapei 101 (1667 feet tall).
According to BBC News, four of the five most recently built tallest buildings in the world have been built in the East, rather than the West. After Burj Dubai and Tapei 101, the tallest buildings are Shanghai World Financial Centre and Petronas Towers 1 & 2, in Kuala Lumpur. Coming in at number five is Willis Tower in Chicago, with a height of 1451 feet.
But the opening of Burj Dubai is a celebration not without controversy. In November, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the 60-year-old ruler of the city-state, declared that one of the largest government-owned company’s could not pay its debt. The announcement caused a world-wide slide in stock markets, and it meant that an economy that had otherwise grown heedlessly was indeed vulnerable. Experts questioned the city-state’s economic model of borrowing to build. In the end, Dubai’s neighbor, Abu Dhabi, came to the rescue, offering $10 billion to help pay off debts.
The events celebrating the opening of Burj Dubai look to be over the top: carefully choreographed performances, more than 10,000 fireworks, and tight security. Think Beijing 2008, but a little smaller.
It’s hard to imagine that an even taller building than Burj Dubai could be built, but then again the construction time between tall building claims to fame has shrunk in the last 30 years. The Empire State Building, completed in 1931 in The Great Depression, was the tallest building until 1972, when the World Trade Center was completed. But four of the five current tallest buildings in the world were all built in the past 15 years. Tapei 101 was completed in 2004; Shanghai World Financial Centre was finished in 2008; Petronas Towers 1 & 2 were completed in 1998; and Willis Tower, the senior of the group, was finished in 1973. So, give it ten years, and I bet we’ll see a taller building than the Burj Dubai. The economy certainly does not seem to slow these giants from reaching to the sky. The question is, which country will be the next to erect its economic phallus?