Meet the architect of the world's tallest tower
Adrian Smith, creator of the Burj Khalifa and other iconic structures worldwide, has been a practising architect for over 40 years.
Meet the man who designed the building that has smashed all world records. The chief architect for the Burj Khalifa, Adrian Smith, speaks to David Light about his achievement
His extraordinary body of work includes some of the world’s most recognisable landmark structures, including the now fully completed Burj Khalifa, the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai and Rowes Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts.
Projects under his design direction have won over 90 major awards for design excellence, including five international awards, eight National AIA awards, 22 Chicago AIA awards and two ULI Awards for Excellence. His work has been featured in major museums in the United States, South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
How does it feel to have your name forever attached with the tallest building in the world?
It feels great! The opportunity to design the world’s tallest tower is rare: a lot of people talk about developing the world’s next tallest building, but only a handful in history have ever actually accomplished it. Designing the world’s tallest comes with quite a few unique design challenges - but it also offers the opportunity to make a strong statement and contribution to the world of architecture and to the city of Dubai and its goals to become a world-class city.
Now that the Burj is open, is it all you imagined?
It’s pretty awesome. When I visit, I’m still struck by just how tall it is! I am constantly evaluating it and thinking of what is special and if I would do it the same way if I were to do it all over again. I wouldn’t change a thing!
Did you ever foresee in your early career that you would be the name behind so many iconic buildings around the world including the record- breaking Burj?
Well I’ve always loved skyscrapers. I’m from Chicago, home of the skyscraper. I remember when I first became aware of the architecture there - I was in awe of the vertical nature of it, the fact that man was “making mountains” out of the plains. So it was something I pursued strongly in my career. When I first started work, I was assigned to work on the John Hancock Centre, a great icon of Chicago by Bruce Graham. I worked on ground floor details but the exhilaration of working on such an important building stuck.
With regards to the environment, you are renowned for your zero-energy structures; do you believe that developers hold this issue in significant regard?
I think more and more, developers understand the significance of sustainability. The Verde Residence and Office projects are a good example of this - we worked with ETA to design both of these towers to work symbiotically with their environments The more projects like this are built, in Dubai and internationally, the more people will begin to understand that, not only is it environmentally responsible to build green, it doesn’t always mean a higher cost. Life-cycle costs of sustainable developments can actually often times be lower than non-sustainable buildings.
Will you use your influence to persuade others to ‘go green?’
Well hopefully the buildings we’re designing in our office right now will communicate to the public that we think sustainable design is an important issue. A lot of people think that automobiles are largely responsible for polluting the environment - that’s not entirely true. In some areas, buildings contribute up to 40 per cent of carbon emissions.
What are you working on next and what are your plans for the future? Will you be creating another structure in the Emirates?
We’re working on a number of projects both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. They are incredibly exciting places to work, and we’ve found that the clients in the Emirates have really embraced our design philosophy - that buildings should be high-performance instruments that respect and enhance the natural environment.
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