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Tallest tales

by CW Staff on Jun 6, 2011

The construction site of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
The construction site of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

RELATED ARTICLES: Survey: Burj Khalifa more popular than Colosseum | How the Burj was built | In video: View from the top

RELATED ARTICLES: Survey: Burj Khalifa more popular than ColosseumHow the Burj was builtIn video: View from the top

Recently the Qatar Tribune quoted Ezdan Real Estate chairman Sheikh Thani Bin Abdullah Al Thani as saying that Qatar aims to build the world’s tallest building.

This follows hot on the heels of Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Company reporting that it had approved plans for the 1,001m-high, $30bn Kingdom Tower in Obhur, just outside Jeddah. This proposed super-tall tower would be 173m higher than the current record-holder, the 828m-high Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

SOM architect Eric Tomich, the designer of the Burj Khalifa, is not surprised at these long-circulating speculations. “I think there is still a pretty high appetite for high-rise development,” he says.

He points out that, when he came to Dubai in 2004, “I met a model maker who said he was working on 12 different models for 12 different clients around the Gulf, and they all wanted something from 800m to 1.6km high.”

However, Tomich says such projects “need to have a reason to exist. You cannot build these on ego and pocket money.” Of those 12 super-talls, the only one that ever ended up being built was the Burj Khalifa.

“Even before the recession and the drop in development, we started to think that the Burj Khalifa would remain the world’s tallest building for longer than anybody thought. Maybe it still will.”

As a practice, SOM “always aspired to provide a rationalised design in its work, and this is one of the things we think enhances the possibility and the viability of a project going through and getting built.”

The way that engineers would like to see the built environment, says Tomich, perhaps a touch wistfully, is populated entirely by super-tall towers.

“One of the reasons we were invited to do this is because we have the capability to do large projects, being an integrated design practice. We have engineering, architecture and many other disciplines on hand, from urban design to interior. It allows us to deal comprehensively with large-scale, mixed-use projects.

The original construction contract was negotiated with the JV of Samsung Engineering, Besix and Arabtec in January 2005 for the princely sum of $1bn.

“It did not include things like the external works, or some of the lobby finishes, but it did include the superstructure, the cladding, all the MEP services. All the big stuff was in, so at the end the building probably cost $1.5bn to $1.6bn, which still I think is pretty good value.”