Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

A big birthday: Burj Khalifa turns 10

When Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, was opened to the public on on January 4, 2010, it was widely reported that it was so high you could see the sunset twice from it – once from the ground and once from the top of the 828-metre structure.

To view the “second sunset”, you had to take a minute-long trip up the building’s 160 storeys in what is the world’s tallest elevator – another record in the numerous accomplished during the year the horizon of Dubai gained its most towering detail.

In the decade since, Burj Khalifa has become the most popular attraction in a city that last year drew 12 million tourists. This fact, familiar as it might be to people in the UAE, is nothing short of a triumph.

The contribution of architecture in adding identity and character to a city is enormous. And the beauty of an evolving cityscape is the merging of historic landmarks with modern ones

Every day, people visiting from all over the world photograph Burj Khalifa as it is illuminated by colourful laser beams. It is a favourite selfie backdrop. Tourists and even residents line up to watch the fountain show in the foreground of this glimmering monument. The popularity of this sight can be gauged by the crowds that every evening gather, waiting for the lights, fountains and music to start.

With the completion of Burj Khalifa, a new chapter dawned in terms of the country’s most prominent landmarks. In 2010, there was no Dubai Frame or the twisty Cayan Tower or Louvre Abu Dhabi. The completion of the Burj Khalifa heralded a new phase. In April that year, : Aldar’s disc-shaped headquarters in Abu Dhabi was completed. And in November, the Sheikh Zayed Bridge, designed by the Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid to resemble a sine wave was inaugurated, also in the capital.

Several projects that are emblematic of the country’s progressive spirit came into being only after Burj Khalifa. And work on other futuristic projects, including the Museum of the Future are already underway. The term “futuristic” is often bandied about in the context of Dubai and Abu Dhabi for in the most tangible terms, architecture is the fingerprint of a country. It is the aspect that first connects with people. Indeed, the skyline of a city is its most identifiable feature. And one measure of progress is to study how much has been added to it and to what effect.

Forty years ago, there were only a handful of tall buildings in Dubai. Several of those now rank under modern heritage. Dubai Trade Centre, when it was completed in 1979, was Dubai’s first skyscraper. It is a sign of the times that the Trade Centre may no longer be pioneering in today’s architectural lexicon but the 39-storey tower back then was the city’s tallest until the Burj Al Arab took that mantle in 1999.

The contribution of architecture in adding identity and character to a city is enormous. And the beauty of an evolving cityscape is the merging of history and modernity. As a nation grows, it witnesses buildings that accommodate disparate time periods. The UAE is home to a range of architecture. It is home to forts with wind towers from the past as it is to contemporary flourishes. Given the advancements in engineering, it will be home also to several smart green buildings that will emerge to dot the skyline of the future.

Updated: January 4, 2020 05:34 PM

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