Can one building be the economic catalyst for an entire city? It might, as long as that building is Burj Dubai, a 1,680-foot tower that anchors Downtown Burj Dubai, a $20 billion, 500-acre downtown development in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“Burj Dubai is the center of a master plan, and the expectation is that it will create value for the entire area,” says George Efstathiou, managing partner for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the Chicago-based firm that designed the tower.

Developed by Emaar Properties, one of the preeminent developers in the Middle East, Burj Dubai will feature residential, commercial, and retail space including the world's first Armani Hotel & Residences, exclusive corporate suites, a business center, four pools and spas, an observation platform, and 150,000 square feet of fitness facilities. It is under construction, and as of late August 2007, the tower had reached 145 stories. It is expected to top out by the end of 2007 and is scheduled for completion in early 2009.

With its curvilinear shape and tapered spire that stresses its verticality, Burj Dubai is a “romantic, iconic tower,” Efstathiou says. It's clad in reflective glazing, aluminum, and textured stainless steel architectural panels with vertical stainless tubular fins that accentuate the tower's height. The tip of the spire can be seen 60 miles away.

Burj Dubai's interior will boast the highest quality materials. “The finishes will be very high so the building will be known for its quality and not only its height,” Efstathiou notes, adding that the 1,000 condos in the tower sold out in just nine hours in 2006.

“Burj Dubai has not only changed the skyline of Dubai, but it's added a whole different kind of economic growth to this part of the city,” Efstathiou says.

Burj Dubai

Location: Dubai, UAE
Height: 1,680 feet
Stories: 145+
Developer: Emaar Properties
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Notable: 5,000 consultants and skilled construction workers are employed on site and 22 million man hours will go into the building. The tower has a system that will collect water off the sides of the building from the hot and humid air, providing about 15 million gallons of supplemental water per year, equivalent to nearly 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

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