Al Burj was initially intended to be the iconic centerpiece of the Jumeirah Palm, Dubai’s first and best-known man-made island. Following the immediate commercial success of The Palm, the tower site was moved to the Dubai Waterfront, a planned city for over 500,000 inhabitants, to again serve as a landmark with worldwide recognition. At a height of 1,000 meters, it was intended to be the world’s tallest building.

Rather than extending known technology for tall buildings to even greater heights, Pei Partnership Architects accepted the design challenge by taking an entirely new approach. The events of September 11 have put new pressure on design professionals to respond even more effectively to critical life safety issues.

Al Burj is a joint design effort of PPA, Leslie E. Robertson Associates (structure), Lehr Consultants International (MEP) and Barker Mohandas (vertical transportation). All of the major building systems are designed with redundancy so that in the event of failure of any one of them, the integrity of the building remains uncompromised. In particular, multiple escape paths (and access paths for emergency teams) are assured.

The extreme height of the tower is emphasized by its slenderness. The tower is configured like repetitive towers stacked vertically, but joined by “bridge” elements which create “gardens in the sky”. Vertical openings between the towers bring light into the central area but also reduce wind drag on the structure. Like the cross-section of a bamboo stalk – famous for its strength – the tower can maintain its full floor area all the way to the top where the space value is also at its highest.