In Defense of the Burj (Dubai) Khalifa

I would like to take a brief moment to defend the Burj Khalifa (formerly known as the Burj Dubai) – if only a little bit. While there have been many middle-of-the-road articles on the opening of the building – and many supportive ones as well – I feel as if the building is being unfairly used as a scapegoat, taking the hit for the current rally against “excessive” architecture.

For starters, look at the damn thing – it’s absolutely feckin’ awesomely ridiculous. 2,717 feet tall, all curvy and shiny and all that? I think we can all take a second to marvel at the fact that it’s an incredible structure. I mean, any fan of Star Wars / SciFi has been waiting for a tower this absurdly tall since their youth, as the Burj Khalifa looks like Coruscant, step one.

Now this is hardly a reason to build this thing. I’m all about admitting that this project seems kind of ignorant, and like little more than a pissing contest. “Now we have the tallest building, bitches”. But so what? Aren’t nearly all buildings over a certain height an exercise in ego? Outside of the few places where there is actually not enough land (NYC, parts of China + Japan), what’s the justification for a building over 20 stories or so? There are a number of towers here in Boston that have been sitting here half empty for a minute now – and our tallest building is under 800 feet.

Also, this design is nearly plagiarizing Frank Lloyd Wright’s proposal for a super tall skyscraper – and that man is by far the US’s most beloved architect.

Moving on to a less rational argument – what does this matter to any of us? How could some rich people building a super tall building in the desert be offensive? Did they spend your money? Because I’m pretty sure that those of us in the US should focus on the fact that our trends in housing are gross and inefficient, or that the government doesn’t adequately support progress and innovation in the construction fields. Plus, where the hell is all our infrastructure spending going? We have our own problems with shitty architecture of another sort. Fortunately, we can apparently afford to throw stones – modernism never took in housing.

The world is falling apart around us, and we’re going to take shots at this building for being too tall? Or, for that matter, a Zaha building for being too curvy? A Gehry building for looking too much like a melting chunk of metal? Let’s do this: the next time you read about ‘the architecture of excess’ – or anything similar/related – prep some ninja stars and go attack a brokerage firm, or a bank that gave out bad home loans.

My ninjas, please – get a grip on reality. The Burj Khalifa is a lot of things – including wasteful and unnecessary. That said, it’s also wicked cool for being over half a mile tall. Let’s take a moment to focus on that, and quit projecting our problems onto the people pushing the boundaries of design and construction.

Posted: January 10th, 2010
at 6:55pm by orangemenace

Categories: architecture,my ninja, please,towering pagodas,starchitects

Comments: 4 comments


4 Responses to 'In Defense of the Burj (Dubai) Khalifa'

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  1. it is clear that people are looking at the Burj in the wrong light. as an opportunity to see the unrealized dreams of some of yesteryears architects come to life is incredible on its own. how would a firm like archigram respond to this attack in the media? as you mentioned in the article, how about FLW? if not for a ‘purpose’ (housing, medical, communal, etc.), architecture that is shown in the international media is to be eye catching, unimaginable and in fact a little shocking. if not, then one, why the hell should we care at all and two, what are we all gonna use as a stepping stone towards new design/ technology in architecture? believe it or not, we are already a decade deep into the 21st century…no lying, go check the newspaper. the design itself is elegant and the engineering must have bee a nightmare i’m sure, but look at what has been conceived while we were alive to see it. this will not be the last structure to slightly glance at realism and stare directly into the unrealized. Louis Sullivan’s skyscraper had been determined unnecessary during his time but he had the vision to understand he was on to something new and exciting. the skyscraper of today is and will hopefully continue to elicit the same reactions. and as a form that every child knows at first viewing, the Burj and it’s successors will continue to evolve in size of imaginable proportions, to the chagrin of the haters.


    11 Jan 10 at 10:01 am


  2. […] Defending the Burj Khalifa: Blair Kamin and architecture.mnp. […]


  3. well said, dubs. there’s a great example of why AMNP needs you writing for it again, hehe…


    11 Jan 10 at 4:45 pm


  4. It makes me wonder if the Burj Khalifa is just the culmination of all the hatred thrown at Dubai’s excesses, like its the final tipping point. What if it had been built in America? At the WTC site for instance? What would the response be then?

    It’s great to see someone step up and appreciate the amazing, but, all in all, I still think the Burj is a bit silly.


    11 Jan 10 at 5:55 pm



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