Well, the Burj Dubai Khalifa, the new tallest building in the world, opened today. I am constantly amazed at super tall buildings, some of the most incredible industrial marvels in the world.  I still don’t know how the engineers and builders can be so sure of structural integrity as literally 100s of 1000s of tons of expensive material and invaluable human lives exert immense stress on the foundation and lower floors.  How do you ‘calculate’ the effects of the various stresses that are outside of your control?

Some questions and observations come to mind as I read a little:

The Burj sets many new height records: notably, in addition to being the tallest building in the world now, it’s the tallest structure too, surpassing even radio towers that were taller than any building. And it has more floors than any other building, the highest observation deck, and the highest swimming pool.

The glitz and spectacular stuff about the building seem to be counterbalanced by the negative: The Dubaians apparently are in massive debt (not as massive as the U.S., of course).  Dubai is one of the emirates that make up the UAE, and after having over-extended itself (perhaps by massive building projects?), it was bailed out by the neighboring emirate of Abu Dhabi, who propped up Dubai with billions of dollars to cover its debts. In gratitude, Dubai named its premiere landmark “Burj Khalifa” after Abu Dhabi’s emir (and UAE President) Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Maybe everything will turn out OK in the long term for Dubai, but apparently a lot of people in the area see impending economic collapse. Maybe it’s a good investment to build huge developments like Downtown Burj Khalifa (of which the tower is the centerpiece), World Islands and Palm Islands to attract visitors. The idea is to move Dubai’s economy toward tourism and away from oil, since the relatively small oil reserves that made Dubai rich are not going to continue to carry it.

Maybe they bit off more than they can chew, needing outside lenders to support their ambitious investing, if these building projects of unprecedented scale are truly investments. Or maybe they got the big head, letting their pride get in the way of planned growth, the allure of being recognized for their impressive achievements (kind of like these guys) obscuring the purpose of those achievements (presumably to have a strong economy and a stable culture).  If the latter is the case, then it has surely already backfired: do a Google search on the term “Burj Khalifa”, and what you’ll find is more information on Dubai’s economic woes than the impressiveness of their tower.

Oh, and the biggest question in my mind: when will Alain Robert make the climb?

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