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Burj Khalifa Design a Case Study in Varsities

Afshan Ahmed / 6 January 2010

DUBAI — How does an 828-metre tall tower withstand the force of wind at that height? How does one evacuate people from such heights during emergencies? What trend in urban architecture does Burj Khalifa signify?

The tallest tower in the world not only entered record books on Monday but now will make its way into many architecture and management classes as a case study. In fact universities in the UAE have already planned to incorporate it into their course modules.

“Burj Khalifa is a piece in the developing trajectory of tall buildings,” Professor Peter A. Di Sabatino, Dean of the School of Architecture and Design at American University of Sharjah (AUS), said.

“With material and design advancement, buildings have increased in height and dimension over time. The Burj Khalifa is currently the tallest and it is important to understand it from a historical perspective as well as a new piece in the trend,” he said.

George Katodrytis, Associate Professor at AUS points out the urban evolution, marked by high rise buildings in Dubai. “In 1969 the master plan that was developed for the emirate extended from the Bastakiya area into the desert,” he said.

“In 1978, Trade Center was the tallest building in the Gulf, seeing a shift from the traditional fishing sector.

“Then came the Emirates Towers and it is now interesting to see, in 2010- Burj Khalifa follows on the same lines. It is a  symbol of that series.”

The tower that has been constructed by Emaar Properties is a catalyst that has created a vertical neighbourhood and beyond — including the 500-acre development at its base including Dubai Mall, according to the professor.

Adrian Smith, designer of the Burj Khalifa said he tried to blend the Islamic and modern Western architecture for the tallest tower.

Steps that move in an upward spiral and the view from the top or the base that evokes a shape like onion domes are influenced by Islamic architecture. The triple-buttressed outline of the Burj Khalifa was inspired by the desert lily Hymenocalli. The building was rotated 120 degrees by engineers, a deviation from the original design, to reduce stress from winds at such great heights.

The tower also has a unique ‘intelligent elevator’ mechanism that marks the highest installation in any building and also provides a streamlined and speedy journey across floors.

Historically, high rise structures have served as office spaces or monuments but the Burj Khalifa has moved away from the conventional and made the tower residential as well. “The fact that it is residential is fascinating and is an amazing strategy, that makes it popular,” Katodrytis said.

Nabyl Chenaf, Chair of Architecture and Associate Professor of Architecture and Interior Design at the American University in Dubai, said the emirate is a paradise for architects.

Building designs that do not follow a certain pattern or style make them remarkable case studies. Chenaf said the university plans to have workshops where students can interact with the specialist who worked on the Burj Khalifa.

“It is quite an achievement in terms of civil engineering, dynamics and technical solutions,” he said.

Bringing together the thousands of workers to design and construct the tallest tower in the world is no easy feat and understanding how developers coordinated the project will be a lesson for management students at the British University in Dubai.

“In case of a project like the Burj Khalifa, packaging is essential which means you get the best people to do different aspects of the project,” said Mohammed Dulaimi, Senior Lecturer for Project Management at the university.


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