Architect reveals Burj Dubai height

EXCLUSIVE: Iconic Dubai landmark destined to be 808 metres tall, says designer behind project.
By Tom Arnold
Wed 03 Dec 2008 12:13 PM

Since its conception the final height of the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest tower, has been the subject of much speculation.

But on Wednesday one of the architects behind the mega-project spoke for the first time about his role in the iconic scheme and told Arabian Business the Burj Dubai was originally designed to be 808 metres tall.

Marshall Strabala, who worked as associate partner and lead designer for Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), said when he left the company in 2006 the skyscraper's final height was set to be 808 metres, or half a mile.

Strabala's remarks are the first time anyone involved in the project has revealed the planned height of the Burj Dubai, which developer Emaar Properties confirmed on Wednesday was currently 730 metres tall and rising.

"I don’t know where it [the Burj Dubai] is with its steel but 808 metres was its design when I left SOM in 2006, which is exactly half a mile tall," said Strabala, whose latest design project is Shanghai Tower, China's tallest building.

SOM started planning work on the Burj Dubai in mid-2002 after winning a competition to design the tower.

"The design of the Burj was primarily a residential building," he said. "We changed the top to office very late in the game.

"With a hotel at the bottom, it was primarily super high-end luxury and I think [Emaar chairman] Mohamed Ali Alabbar had a terrific business model for doing it as his whole development is around the Burj... this was an element that marked this part of the city."

Strabala said the design of the tower, with its three-legged shape, was based on a 72-storey tower SOM worked on called Tower Palace Three in Seoul, South Korea.

"I believe design is an evolution, not a revolution, you are not coming up with completely independent thoughts every time you do a building, you build on the buildings you do before.

"The structural system and philosophy of how the Burj works is based on that [Tower Palace Three], it was adapted and changed for the new programme of the Burj," said Strabala, who has also designed plans for King Abdullah Economic City and King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Saudi Arabia.

Emaar still refuses to confirm the final height of the tower, merely stating that when completed it will hold the world record in all four categories as recognised by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat - namely, highest structure, roof, antenna and occupied floor.

"Burj Dubai is currently over 730 metres and continues to rise. The final height of the tower is yet to be released by Emaar Properties," a company spokesman said.

The Burj Dubai's final height had been rumoured to be between 700 and 1,000 metres, with media reports last year suggesting it would be 818 metres, citing architects drawings posted on the internet.

The Burj Dubai is to be the centrepiece of a city within a city, Downtown Burj Dubai. The $20 billion development as a whole will include 30,000 homes, nine hotels, 6.2 acres of parkland, 19 residential towers, the Dubai Mall, and a 30-acre manmade lake with one of the biggest fountains in the world.

Rival Dubai-based developer Nakheel in October unveiled plans to build its own skyscraper, which at 1.4 kilometres tall would dwarf the Burj Dubai.

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