Sunday, December 6, 2009

Towering follies the Dubai architecture you couldn’t make up

The kilometre-high skyscraper, the underwater hotel, the cloud on stilts ... Steve Rose mourns the eye-popping erections that should never have been commissioned

Pundits have been lining up to say "I told you so" over the bursting of Dubai's construction bubble, so now it's my turn. I did tell you so, a year ago. But what now? In architectural terms, Dubai has surely been the story of the decade. We're just not sure if it's a comedy, a tragedy or some surreal, hallucinogenic fairy tale.

On the other hand, the Dubai experiment has undeniably expanded the realms of what it is possible to build. Before the Palm Jumeirah and its ilk, or The World, who would have contemplated works on such a scale? Reclaiming land from the sea is nothing new, but only Dubai had the imagination to make pretty patterns with its coastline, to shape the earth to such a colossal degree that you need Google Earth to appreciate it.

Other countries have evidently been eyeing Dubai's coastline, too. In Russia, for example, Eric van Egeraat has designed Sochi Island, an artificial resort island in the Black Sea. Bahrain is developing a similar type of offshore resort, and Abu Dhabi is making good use of its previously undeveloped islands, such as Saadiyat Island, which will soon house a very different collection of wonders to Dubai in the form of new museums and galleries designed by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel and Tadao Ando. Even Boris Johnson's recent proposals for a new airport in the Thames estuary had a touch of Dubai about them.

Foreign architects have had a riot in Dubai, at least until recently. It's been the place where you can get away with anything. No matter how outlandish or oversized the idea, no one seemed to be saying no, and somebody else was always paying. As a result, the emirate has been waging some sort of architectural arms race with itself, each new development trying to outdo the last, while the rest of the world looked on with a mix of disdain and envy.

The Dubai dream was ultimately unsustainable on many levels, environmental as well as financial, and it's safe to assume that most of the crazy ideas proposed for the city will never happen now, given Dubai's dire credit situation. So here are some of the craziest highlights from a future that will probably never arrive – but, you never know, still just might.

Nakheel Harbour and Tower

Bad timing for SOM's Burj Dubai, which is due to open on 4 January 2010, just when a conspicuous symbol of Dubai's hubris was needed. But in the Dubai spirit of one-upmanship, plans were afoot to build an even taller skyscraper with an even shorter name: Al Burj. Originally designed by Pei Partnership, the tower was taken over by Australian architects Woods Bagot, and renamed Nakheel Harbour and Tower after its backers, the state-owned property group Nakheel, which is at the heart of Dubai's current woes. The sentiment behind this stupendous tower seemed to be: "I see your 800-metre-high Burj Dubai, and raise it to over 1km. How d'you like that?"

Trump International Hotel and Tower

Surely a frontrunner in any competition for the ugliest skyscraper the world has ever seen, this 60-odd-storey atrocity, designed by Atkins, was supposed to be the centrepiece of the famous Palm Jumeirah and super-luxurious addition to the Trump brand. It looks like it was inspired by one of those 1980s vases you find in a pound shop. Mercifully, construction has been on hold for a year or so.

Dubai Towers

In the same way the peacock's tail evolved into a flamboyantly useless appendage, Dubai skyscrapers have had to resort to ludicrous contortions to stand out. From the "ignore them, they're just trying to get attention" school of design comes a quartet of bendy skyscrapers supposedly inspired by the movement of candlelight – or perhaps Jedward's hair.

Hydropolis Underwater Hotel

Why reach for the sky when you can plumb the depths? This German-designed scheme would offer 220 bubble-shaped transparent suites, 66 metres below the surface, so guests can enjoy a privileged view of Dubai's spectacular coastal dredging operations.

The Dynamic Tower

A nice idea: each of this tower's 70 floors revolves independently around its central core, so everyone lives in a revolving apartment and gets a 360-degree view of Dubai's cranescape. And from the outside, the building changes shape all the time. And it's all powered by green energy from wind turbines and solar panels. All perfectly possible, architect David Fisher assures a sceptical world.

The Dubai Opera House

Not even Dubai had the stomach for French superstar Jean Nouvel's idiosyncratic formal experiment – a strange cross between an oil rig, a greenhouse and a psychedelic light show. Nouvel's pretentious accompanying text didn't help: "It is a little like the clouds. Each person can see what attracts them, what makes them question. The architect plays only the role of provocateur, claiming innocence." Nouvel is at least building the new Louvre, in neighbouring Abu Dhabi, which promises to be stunning.

The Cloud

A poetic but preposterous scheme imagining a resort landscape of lakes, palaces and floating gardens, raised 300 metres in the air on slanting columns. The brainchild of Lebanese architect Nadim Karam, it's been described as "a bridge suspended between dreams and reality". Why not put a gigantic pie on stilts instead?

Waterfront City

A whole city for 1.5 milliion inhabitants on an artificial island twice the size of Hong Kong. Rem Koolhaas's OMA were behind the plan. Reckoning that nobody in the Gulf watched Star Wars, he put a replica of the Death Star as its centrepiece – or was that his idea of architectural satire?


A vast landscape of leisure, twice the size of Florida's Disney World, proposed for the interior of the emirate. Highlights include four theme parks, five golf courses, life-size replicas of some of the world's landmarks, a zillion hotels, a Beauty Museum, and, of course, another "world's largest shopping mall".

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dubai Debt Debacle Validation of "Skyscraper Index

In light of the current concern over Dubai’s debt, the inevitable questions are beginning. Might the market have seen this coming?

Sure, looking back on it, it seems like there were probably some red flags.

For example, that indoor ski slope, in hindsight, looks a bit, shall we say, frothy. And yes, a particularly prescient observer might have cited the creation of that string of palm-shaped islands off Dubai’s coast, as a manifestation of irrational exuberance.

But if you were looking for a reason to get worried about Dubai over the past few years, you needed only look at the Burj Dubai — the world’s tallest skyscraper — according to the “skyscraper index.”

Credited to a 1999 report penned by Andrew Lawrence, then an analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort, the skyscraper index argues that there is a correlation between the construction of the world’s tallest buildings and the impending end of business cycles.

Back in 2006, BNY Mellon’s Chris Sheldon, director of investment strategy, applied the skyscraper indicator to Dubai:

Groundbreakings for the worlds tallest buildings typically have taken place after a long period of sustained economic growth. Optimism is high, credit is easy to obtain, and the sky is the limit. A new worlds tallest building also has proven to be a predictor of a booms end. Returning to Dubai, the Burj Dubai, at 2,313 feet tall, will be 40% higher than the current record holder, Taipei 101, which was completed in 2004.

A story in the Journal in August pegged the completed height of the Burj Dubai, or Dubai Tower, at 2,684 feet. Interestingly, another Dubai skyscraper, called the Nakheel Tower, was supposed to be even taller than the Burj Dubai. But construction was suspended back in January, as the company worked to adjust the plans “‘to better reflect the current market trends and match supply with demand.”

Friday, December 4, 2009

Burj Dubai Photos

Here are pictures and videos of the 7 star Burj Dubai, the tallest skyscraper in the world surpassing the KNLY-TV mast and costing an estimated $1billion to build.

Towering high above the Dubai skyline, Burj Dubai, the world's tallest man-made construction, edges closer to completion.

These stunning aerial and exclusive interior images provide a glimpse into the lavish creation which has cost an estimated UD$1 billion to build, with a further three billion budgeted for the entire complex.

Standing at a reported 818 m (the official height will not be revealed until next year) and consisting of 162 floors above ground, the giant tower - described as the 'jewel of the Gulf regions' - is an awesome sight to behold.

But while the exterior of the building has taken shape, interior shots suggest there is still some way to go before the official unveiling in January 2010.

Taken in November 2009, interior images display giant office spaces from the lofty 125th floor with vertigo-inducing views.

On floor 39, a luxury bathroom and entertainment area from the Armani Hotel provide an insight into what the rich and famous can expect upon their lavish stay.

Made up of 175 rooms, the 40,000 sq. m Armani Hotel, will be the first of its kind to open in the world.

Reports have suggested that Giorgio Armani himself will oversee all aspects of content, design and style, including interiors and amenities. And the fashion guru will be incorporating the his exclusive label's designs into the furnishings.

The statistics behind the mega structure are as impressive as the building itself. The rods that reinforce the structure weigh a total 31,400 tonnes alone. Laid end to end they would stretch more than a quarter of the way around the world.

The water system will supply 250,000 gallons each day and the tower's external surface is the size of 17 football fields. The building will have the worlds fastest elevators at speeds of 64 km/h (40 mph) or 18 m/s (59 ft/s).

The tower will include 800 private apartments and an observatory 442 metres above the ground on the 124th floor - the highest public observation desk in the world. There will be a club on floors 144 to 146.

Sitting at the foot of the tower is the 500 acre Downtown Burj Dubai development, which when completed is expected to cost around US$20 billion, offering 30,000 homes and the world's largest shopping mall - the Dubai Mall - covering 836,000 square metres. The Burj Dubai Mall will have areas for leisure, including a world-class aquarium, fashion show arena, a souk and an ice rink.

The Burj Dubai has been designed to be the centre of a large-scale, mixed-use development that will include 30,000 homes, 9 hotels, 6 acres of parkland, 19 residential towers, and the 12 hectare Burj Dubai Lake.

The mega structure has already achieved the distinction of being the world's tallest, surpassing the KNLY-TV mast (628.8m, 2,063ft) in North Dakota, USA

However, Dubai has been hit hard by the global downturn. This week, Dubai World, one of the emirate's main state holding companies, said it was asking for a delay on major parts of its debt repayments until at least May 30

Dubai was among the most dramatic victims of the credit crunch, with property prices halving from their highs in September 2008, leaving a huge overhang of debt

Dubai borrowed $80bn in a four-year construction spree designed to turn its economy into a Middle Eastern powerhouse of finance and tourism

Burj Dubai has also been hit by press reports of the poor conditions faced by its labourers, mostly immigrants from South Asia

Thursday, December 3, 2009

World’s tallest building, Burj Dubai Tower, opens as a golden era closes

Burj Dubai, or Dubai Tower, will be the world's tallest building.

Burj Dubai Tower, the world’s tallest building, is a spire of superlatives.

The 160-story skyscraper will open on January 4, the fourth anniversary of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum’s rule in Dubai.

Under the Sheikh, Dubai has seen a boom in record breakers, impressive firsts, and baffling spectacles. For example, the city is or will be home to the , a twirling tower, the world’s largest arch-supported bridge, and artificial islands in the shape of the world map.

And Burj Dubai boasts more surprising bullet points than simply being the world’s tallest tower:

• At 2,700 feet tall, the skyscraper can be seen from 10 miles away.

• The building will sport the fastest elevators in the world, traveling at 10 meters per second (22 miles per hour). They will also be double-decker elevators, with each deck supporting up to 21 people.

• To keep out the desert heat, 10,000 tons of coolant with flow through the tower every hour.

• 230,000 cubic meters of concrete form the building’s core, enough to pave 1,180 miles of sidewalk.

• Dubai Tower will be the highlight of the worlds’ largest indoor shopping center, with space for 1,200 shops nestled among 30,000 apartments.

But Dubai is a very different place this month than it was in 2004 when construction began on the tower. As AFP reports:

Plunging property prices and weak demand had already put a dampener on new schemes even before last week’s shock announcement by state-owned giant Dubai World that it wants to halt debt payments for six months.

“It’s not exactly going to improve investor confidence,” said Matthew Green, associate director at property agency CB Richard Ellis, which has reported a 55 percent year-on-year drop in downtown Dubai commercial rental rates and a 67 percent fall outside the centre.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dubai Sends a Reminder to All Investors

In just about any endeavor, complacency can be detrimental to continued success. Many of the most successful companies in the world have risen to the top of their respective industries by always being on the lookout for encroachments on their domain. For investors, when they get used to their environment for too long, they tend to stop noticing the potential dangers that might come out of seemingly nowhere.

That is just what has occurred recently with the announcement by Dubai that they would no longer be paying interest on loans made to two of its state owned companies as they have run into financial trouble. Recall it was just a few short years ago that another Dubai state owned company – Dubai World – had wanted to buy several US ports. That only fell through due to congressional and popular opposition.

The news of Dubai’s debt deferment shocked many investors who had thought that by now problems associated with the credit markets had become all but old news. Many investors had been shaken out of their complacency and all of a sudden risk mattered again. They reacted by selling off stocks and seeking the safety of the US dollar. However, as the markets began to sort the facts from fiction and Dubai received support from the United Arab Emirates, things have seemed to settle down and all is quiet – for now.

Dubai's skyline with the world's tallest building - the Burj Dubai.

The key lesson from this episode is that investors should always be on the lookout for the potential of being blindsided and to be able to ask themselves how their portfolio would hold up should the unexpected happen.

In Dubai’s case, the fact that things have unraveled for them is no surprise at all. Throughout the last several decades, we have seen country after country receive huge capital inflows through lenders all too willing to provide loans and foreign investment racing in to take advantage of some future potential mega project. The issue is that investors never seem to learn their lesson.

The internet is rife with numerous slideshows making their way by email showing Dubai’s progress and the unfathomable statistics relating just how much construction activity was under way. The statistics certainly were impressive but seldom – if ever – did we see any objective analysis of whether or not these exciting construction projects are economical, will they be able to stand up to a global blindsiding such as we have seen over the last two years or if they even made sense. When debt is available cheaply, enthusiasm tends to get the best of even the most rational investor.

In short, complacency was on display as banks continued to make loans for projects that may not be economical for a very long time. Amazingly, some banks seemed to have thought that in the event of default, the government would simply pick up the tab. To their dismay, they are realizing that the governments of Dubai and the UAE are not going to simply step up and pay the bills. Today, many of the developments have stopped construction and the rulers of Dubai are left to wonder “What happened?” The amazing aspect to this story is that it has been repeated in country after country. In the 1980s, most of South America was left with a debt hangover, in the 1990s it was Mexico and most of Asia and today it is Dubai. Investors might want to ask where might the next unknown come from?

Burj Dubai World’s tallest building

The world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, is set to open on Jan. 4, 2010 despite the financial crisis its home-city is currently facing.

The Burj Dubai was topped out early in 2009 at a record-breaking 2,684 ft. The building broke eight world records; it is currently the tallest freestanding structure in the world, the building with the most floors and, once completed, will feature the highest elevator installation in the world. During its construction, its final height was increased multiple times. Originally, the tower was planned to stand only 1,837 ft. The exterior of the building was completed early last month and work has now shifted to the interior of the building in order to prepare it for when its first occupants move in early next year.

The tower is located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Dubai has recently experienced an economic downturn as the construction boom that has driven its economy for many years halts. Dubai recently announced that it was unable to pay interest on its $59 billion debt. Despite the economic crisis currently facing Dubai, the Burj Dubai is still planned to open as scheduled

first peek inside the towering Burj Dubai

The Burj Dubai, the tallest man-made building in the world at 2,684 ft., is set to be completed in the United Arab Emirates in January of 2010. The UK's Telegraph website recently posted some rare photos from inside the nearly-finished superstructure, along with some incredible facts about the project. Among them:

  • The Burj Dubai will have the world's fastest elevators at approximately 40 miles per hour.
  • The external surface of the skyscraper is the equal to the size of 17 football fields.
  • Like to "get high" when you party? The Burj Dubai will have a club on floors 144 through 146.
  • The building is estimated to cost roughly $4 billion, about three times more than the new Yankee Stadium.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Burj Dubai Getting Struck By Lightning

A tipster sent along this spectacular photo of the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest, most absurdly ostentatious building, getting struck by lightning. While checking for newness, I noticed something amazing: This happens all the time.

Well, not all the time, since storms aren't exactly a daily occurrence in Dubai. In a way, though, that makes the sheer number of occasions this has been caught on film all the more impressive.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Burj Dubai Fountains

Probably the best thing of the whole Burj Dubai oasis: the free fountain spectacle running each 15 minutes or so to the inexorable pleasure of the tourist and shoppers. Running on par with its different soundtracks, the simple blow of the jets breaking the water’s surface adds to the rhythm of the performance. Like canons simply amplifying the auditory magnitude of the show.

The kids go crazay when the wind makes the falling water rain over to the mall’s boardwalk. Running back and forth from the railing to their respective parents, they scream to the idea of water and music dancing together so beautifully.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dubai's Economic Crisis A Cautionary Tale Comes True

As the United Arab Emirates celebrates its 38-year Anniversary of Independence from Britain this week, a dark cloud of uncertainty casts a shadow of fear over the festivities. The source of the fog: the November 25, 2009 event known as "the Dubai World Debacle."
In short: Dubai's largest government owned conglomerate requested a six-month "hold" on payments in order to restructure its estimated $60-$80 billion of liabilities. In the words of one news source: "Dubai, once the poster child of the economic boom... is now the epitome of recessionary bust.... The recent events are a wake-up call" that Dubai's property growth, its man-made islands shaped as palm trees and Arabic poems, its soaring infrastructure -- ALL of it was built "on the sand of debt." (Associated Press)
And, it's sinking faster by the day. Dubai's main stock market stands 60% below its 2006 peak, while the pillar of the region's economic growth -- property -- is crumbling under a wave of defaults and fear. On this, the following statistics say plenty:
  • Real estate prices have plunged 50% so far in 2009, with expectations for further declines of 20-30% by the year's end.
  • At the end of the third-quarter '09, office space prices plunged 58% from year ago levels.
  • Office occupancy rates in recently finished buildings stands at 41%.
  • And, an estimated 400 real estate projects, valued at $300 billion, have been frozen due to ongoing debt insecurities.
Fact is, when the world's tallest skyscraper, the famed Burj Dubai opens its doors on January 4, it will do so amidst the worst real estate slump in Dubai's history, record low occupancy levels, abandoned construction sites, and unstable market conditions.
For many, the shock has only just set in. As one November 28 Reuters observes: With the "Dubai World bombshell" and series of unfortunate economic events in Dubai, the "Black Swan has come waddling out of the desert."
The definition of "black swan" is a rare and unexpected event.
In truth, Dubai's financial woes are neither rare nor unexpected.
( First Comes Dubai, And then Comes... Stay one step ahead of the major turns in the world's leading economies. Subscribe, absolutely risk-free, to the Financial Forecast Servicetoday.)
Fact is, the warning signs of trouble emerged in Dubai long before the current wave of "sovereign default problems." How long ago did they first appear? 2008? 2007? Try 2006, at the height of the mainstream's infatuation with this economic marvel of the Middle East, this "Jewel of Arabia" where the altitude of economic ambition had reached unprecedented heights -- literally.
Here, the April 2006 Elliott Wave Financial Forecast presented a special report on the Arab state titled "A Bull Market Goodbye From Dubai." In it, our analysts revealed why the half-mile-high construction of Burj Dubai sent a towering "sell signal" for the regions markets and wrote:
"How big is this peak? The closest precedent is what happened in the late 1920s in the United States. The Jazz Age was in full swing and American's experienced an unprecedented level of prosperity with no apparent end in sight. Three landmark buildings were erected on the New York skyline: the Chrysler Building, the Empire State, and the Manhattan Company. All three buildings were conceived in the bull market and built through the peak, only to open for business amidst the worst market for office space for decades.
The great race to be the worlds tallest is the building frenzy Edward R. Dewey used to identify the 'Skyscraper Indicator' back in the 1940s." A new world's tallest building is invariably occupied only in the aftermath of the bull market that gave rise to its creation."

Elliott Wave Financial Forecast then presented the following close-up of TWO more recent "Skyscraper" tip-offs [Malaysia's Petronas Towers and Taiwan's Taipei 101] and wrote: "Everything points to a similar fate in Dubai."

That Burj Dubai would "open its doors in the aftermath of the bull market that gave rise to its creation" -- is a testament to the power of cultural indicators and objective treatment of historical Elliott wave patterns.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

View from the top of Burj Dubai tower

Video from the top of Burj Dubai tower - the tallest man-made structure ever built, at 818 m (2,684 ft).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mega-tower is Dubai's last hurrah

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- When work began in 2004 to build the world's tallest tower, Dubai's confidence also was sky high with a host of mega-projects on the drawing board or rising from the sands.

That swagger seems positively old school these days. It's been tripped up by a debt crunch that has humbled Dubai's leaders and exposed the shaky foundations of the city-state's boom years -- leaving the planned Jan. 4 opening of the iconic Burj Dubai with a double significance of hello and goodbye.

It will be both a debutante bash for a new architectural landmark and a farewell toast to Dubai's age of excess.

The Burj Dubai -- a steel-and-glass needle rising more than a half-mile -- may be the last completed work from Dubai's time of the giants. Most other of the unfinished super-projects announced in recent years, such as a second palm-shaped island or a tower to surpass the Burj Dubai, are either recession roadkill or are under consideration on a far smaller scale.

If they are still considered at all.

Dubai last week dropped what amounted to a financial bombshell -- announcing its main government-backed development group, Dubai World, needed at least a six-month breather from creditors owed nearly $60 billion.

World markets had known a day of fiscal reckoning was creeping up on what was once the world's fastest-growing city. But the depths of Dubai's red ink seemed to surprise everyone.

The Burj Dubai gala is now a welcome diversion. And one without a direct political sting: the building was developed by Emaar Properties, a state-backed firm not linked to the current debt meltdown.

"This tower was conceived as a monument to Dubai's place on the international stage," said Christopher Davidson, a professor at the University of Durham in Britain. "It's now like a last hurrah to the boom years."

The brakes also were slammed on hundreds of Dubai projects -- from residential towers that stand half-finished to a desert Xanadu that included a Universal Studios theme park and a "city of wonders" with full-size replicas of the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and other famous sites.

"Buildings like the Burj Dubai are born from the optimism of the moment," said Carol Willis, director of The Skyscraper Museum in New York. "That may not necessarily be the mood when the project is finished."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Burj Dubai Still World's Tallest Building?

The Burj Dubai - still the tallest

The Burj Dubai, set to open in January 2010, is regarded as currently being the world's tallest building, however a change in the 'tall buildings criteria' from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) could change that.

The CTBUH is an international body that decides on tall building height and determines the title of 'The World's Tallest Building', but yesterday the organisation announced a change to its height criteria.

Now, a building's height will be "measured from the level of the lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance" allowing, the body said in a statement, "for the recognition of the increasing numbers of multi-use tall buildings with often several different entrances at different levels, while also accommodating buildings constructed in non-traditional urban or suburban locations."

Before the change, the CTBUH measured the height of a building from the sidewalk outside the main entrance to the top, but they have now determined that this is no longer sufficient.

Overall, there are three revised height categories:

Height to architectural top
It is measured to the topmost architectural feature of the building including spires, but not including antennae, signage, flag poles or other technical equipment.

Height to highest occupied floor in a tower
It is measured to the level of the highest, consistently occupied floor in the building (thus not including service or mechanical areas which experience occasional maintenance access)

Height to tip
This is measured to the highest point of the building, irrespective of material or function of the highest element.

Burj Dubai affected?

So, could the Burj Dubai lose its title after just claiming it a few months ago? David Scott, ex-chairman at CTBUH and Principal at Arup doesn't think so.

"Throughout the process, we have been talking to them to define where the entrance is [the new criteria]. I do not think that it will have an impact on the current status of Burj Dubai."

"There is awareness within the Burj team of what we are talking about," he said.

"The developer Emaar is still confidential about the height of the building and we don't mind it being confidential. But if they open the Burj and don't release the height, then we will measure the height of the building. During construction it is fine, but after construction we want to know and our people want to know its final height.

"This new criteria is to solve instances where a tall building had no sidewalk and the connection to the building is through an open air shopping centre. We did not want to change the heights of all the buildings in the world, of course. But this decision has been taken to really clarify how to measure the heights for different buildings."

The Burj Dubai is said to be approximately 818m (2,684ft) tall making it the largest building in the world. However, other projects being constructed could be affected by the new rules.

The Trump International Hotel and Towers in Chicago will see 27 feet added to its height, as it will now be measured from its lower, publicly accessible Chicago Riverwalk. This means it will over take the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai to become the world's sixth tallest building.

The Burj Dubai - still the tallest

Monday, October 26, 2009

A monument to the folly of Dubai

A year ago, a world reeling from the financial crisis looked on in amazement as Dubai threw the most expensive launch party on Earth for the opening of the five-star Atlantis Hotel.

Fast forward 12 months and a massive $300bn in planned development projects have been cancelled. The sheikdom, famed for its palm-shaped man-made islands, is floundering under $80bn in debt, and many expatriates have fled leaving a trail of unpaid loans in their wake.

The Burj Dubai - at 818m the tallest building in the world - was scheduled to open in April this year as a symbol of Dubai's achievements.

But although the building now looms over the emirate's chicest development, Downtown Dubai, Burj owners are making quiet murmurs about a possible official opening in December.

This is a far cry from the A-list studded fanfare with which the Atlantis opening was celebrated.

Dubai no longer wants to draw attention to what is now seen as a symbol of excess and all that has gone wrong in the Islamic state, one source said.

Over two decades, Dubai became the land of opportunity, reminiscent of a burgeoning New York, where would-be entrepreneurs arrived from all corners of the globe.

Many became millionaires in a property boom fuelled by cheap debt.

As late as last November, Dubai seemed invincible and recruiters reported a surge in CVs from Western high-flyers keen to find a refuge in the financial storm.

But in a matter of weeks the extent of the fallout from the credit crunch became apparent.

Credit dried up and speculators were left high and dry with vastly overpriced property that they could no longer offload.

Many of the 100,000 British expatriates who had made Dubai their home were made redundant as finance, property and tourism slashed jobs.

As visas are dependant on employment, many had just 30 days to find a new job or leave the country.

Faced with the prospect of debtors' prison, thousands simply dropped off their 4X4s and sports cars at the airport - often with the keys still in the ignition - before heading for home. Parts of Dubai

currently resemble a ghost town with occupancy levels at some luxury developments as low as 50pc.

At night, the most striking views of the skyline reveal a city with many of its buildings only partially lit.

The latest figures from Colliers International, the property consultancy, reveal that residential property prices have slumped by 48pc since last year and are expected to drop a further 20pc as more major projects are completed.

JP Grobbelaar, director of research and advisory at Colliers, said: 'One in every four units is standing empty. Unless there is a dramatic improvement in economic conditions this oversupply will continue for at least the next two to three years.'

Standard & Poor's, the credit ratings agency, said Dubai needs to raise a further $10bn for its economic support fund as it does not have enough capital to prop up its struggling government-controlled companies.

Farouk Soussa, head of Middle East government ratings at S&P, said it will be down to Dubai's oilrich neighbour, Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, to step in once more.

It bailed out Dubai to the tune of $10bn earlier this year.

'The relationship is very close,' Soussa said. 'Abu Dhabi is the main sponsor in the UAE and we expect Abu Dhabi to support the government of Dubai.'

The more conservative capital is unlikely to let Dubai fail, although economists believe that support from Abu Dhabi may come at a price as it threatens the autonomy which allowed Dubai to establish itself as the Middle East's main business centre.

Property is something of a barometer of the financial health of this desert emirate, charting its ups and downs.

'Speculators were treating property like a grocer would a can of beans on the shelf, with no intention of eating it and only wanting to hold on to it for a day or two,' Grobbelaar said. 'But they got their fingers burnt.'

Today some sanity has returned to the market. Two thirds of property transactions in the past three months have been made without a mortgage, indicating serious investors are convinced the market will recover in the long term.

But whether this putative revival will return Dubai to its glittering pomp is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tallest tower set to open in Dubai

Burj Dubai, the world's tallest tower, will open on December 2, the United Arab Emirates' National Day, says the developer.

Emaar Properties started building the US$1.1 billion Burj Dubai five years ago.

The tower, centrepiece of the US$20 billion Downtown Dubai project, overtook Taipei 101 as the tallest building at 818m in February.

"We are shooting for National Day," said chairman Mohammed Alabbar. Emaar, the UAE's biggest developer, announced the completion of the exterior cladding on October 1.

About 12,000 people are working on the tower to meet the planned opening date. The final height of the building hasn't been announced.

Dubai, the second-biggest sheikhdom in the UAE, has gone from being the best performer among the 46 markets monitored in the Knight Frank global house-price index to the worst.

The slump ended a construction boom that resulted in thousands of houses and apartments being built just as demand started to evaporate.

Alabbar said the Burj "was sold almost 3 years ago, the day we launched it".

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When skyscrapers signal a downturn

It's surprisingly hard to decide on the tallest building in the world. Architects are much like Hollywood stars in their tendency to try to add a couple of sneaky inches. The people at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, who adjudicate on these matters, have had to ban all kinds of Cuban-heel equivalents, from enormous radio masts to metal "guy-ropes" holding up towers that would otherwise collapse in strong winds.

However, their job has got easier with the construction of the Burj Dubai. When it's finished in December, it will take the "world's tallest building" crown simply by dint of being really big. Standing over 800 metres high, it will be at least 290 metres taller than its nearest competitor, the Taipei 101 building in Taiwan. Its success, though, may be tarnished by the fact that it arrives in a very different world to that in which it was conceived. The property market in Dubai has plummeted and we're still stuck in the economic winter.

This won't have surprised analyst Andrew Lawrence. In 1999 the research director at investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein invented something called the "Skyscraper index", arguing that the construction of super-tall buildings is often a sign that an economic downturn is on the way. The best example is the late 1920s, which saw an unprecedented skyscraper boom prior to the Great Depression. The Empire State Building, which was finished in 1929, didn't achieve full occupancy for 40 years. Other examples include the Sears Tower in Chicago, finished in time for the Oil Crisis of 1974, and the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, which appeared after the Malaysian stockmarket went down the plughole in 1997. By the time Canary Wharf was finished in 1991, the London commercial property market was in recession; and the slower pace of building in Britain means our next record-breaking white elephant, the Shard Of Glass in London's Southwark, won't be completed until 2012.

Skyscrapers, then, are the physical embodiment of "irrational exuberance" in the markets. The rule is that if there's enough money sloshing around to pay for one, then don't be surprised if, by the time the purple ribbon's cut, the scissors have to be on hire purchase.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dubai skyscraper symbol of S. Korea's global heights

Standing in the shadow of the Burj Dubai Kye Ho Kim of Samsung Construction rattles off the list of records the building will break.

Standing about a half mile high, it will be the world's tallest building, with the most floors (164) and the world's highest and fastest building. "This building is going to break so many records," said Kim, whose company is building the $4 billion tower, scheduled to open later this year. "This is kind of a project like the first exploration of the moon. Nobody can challenge it."

It may not rank with manned missions to the moon, but right now there is nothing else like the Burj Dubai on Earth. As the project is metaphoric for the strength of Samsung Construction, the company itself symbolizes the growth of South Korea onto the world stage. A country once devastated by war and still divided by north and south has rebuilt itself into a modern capitalist democracy with companies with a global reach such as Samsung

Samsung has cornered the market in giant building construction, building the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and Taipei 101 in Taiwan -- both previous world-record holders.

"Think about the Americans when they constructed the Empire State Building in 1931," Kim said. "So have we ... in a very short period of time we are now the leading company in the world."

Some of Korea's more impressive building projects are happening at home. In the midst of the recession, construction of Songdo -- a 1,500-acre new free trade zone built on reclaimed land two hours out of Seoul -- continues apace, with a projected cost of $35 billion. Developers hope it will be the eventual home of 75,000 people.

It's considered one of the world's largest private real estate development ventures in history, a joint project with South Korea's Posco and Gale International, a U.S. real estate developer. "Under construction today is about $10 billion" of the project, said Chris Sausser, executive vice president of Gale International. "The project we're building has been able to attract multinational companies, investors as well as residents."

Postwar South Korea was based on a "growth at any cost" model, but the South Korean government has pledged 2 percent of its GDP for the next five years dedicated to green development. The country, already the world's most wired, plans to develop next-generation Internet connections that use less computing power. Indoor lighting initiatives are replacing traditional bulbs with lower energy LED lights.

"Green growth is not a plan B, it is plan A," said Kim Sang Hyup, executive director of the Green Growth Committee. "We are going to contribute to the global community by action, not talk."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dubai tower to open in stages

The developer building the world's tallest skyscraper says it is committed to opening the Burj Dubai by the end of the year, though a staggered rollout means only part of the silvery tower will be ready at first.

Ahmad al-Matrooshi, managing director of Emaar Properties' UAE operations, said yesterday that the opening date was being kept secret to build excitement.

But he insisted that major work was nearly complete and the tower would meet Emaar's latest deadline to inaugurate the building by the end of December.

"The building is ready. It's a matter of a few items," he said.

Burj Dubai, Arabic for "Dubai Tower", stands more than 800m tall. Emaar finished covering the building's facade just last week.

It has yet to confirm the tower's final height.

Al-Matrooshi declined to say how much of the building would be ready to go on opening day. He said the tower would be opened in phases to ensure smooth operation.

"See, you cannot just open a building like this," he said. "There are a lot of operational issues that should be ready. We cannot compromise the quality of the building."

Meanwhile, work on another highly anticipated skyscraper in the struggling Arab boomtown - a gleaming luxury hotel by Donald Trump meant as a centrepiece for Dubai's original palm-shaped island - looks likely to remain on hold.

Donald Trump jnr, executive vice-president of the Trump Organisation, said he would like to see work on the Trump International Hotel & Tower get under way in two years, but acknowledged "it's going to take some time" for the project to be restarted.

"When it makes sense, we want to go forward with it," Trump said. "I wouldn't say it's going to happen any time soon."

The Trump hotel is being built by Dubai state-owned developer Nakheel. It stopped work on the glass-clad structure and numerous other projects, including some of its signature man-made islands, over the past year as property prices plummeted and cash dried up.

The executives spoke during the first day of Dubai's Cityscape property expo, traditionally one of the highlights of the sheikdom's business calendar.

Thin crowds and toned-down exhibits - at least by Dubai's over-the-top standards - left the event far quieter than in years past, reflecting a crippling slowdown in Dubai's once white-hot property market.

Home prices have plunged by half from their peak less than a year earlier, according to a widely watched index of Dubai property prices released in August.

Hundreds of multimillion-dollar projects have been put on hold as speculators who made easy cash flipping properties disappeared and builders struggled to secure financing for projects - even those already well under way.

Exhibitors at this year's expo were taking an uncharacteristically cautious approach to the show.

Gone were the celebrity cameos and eye-popping project launches of years past, replaced instead by assurances from struggling developers that they could deliver on their promises.

"Committed to delivery" was the slogan touted by one builder at this year's show.

Organisers say exhibitors are taking up nearly a third less space than they did last year, and expect attendance to drop by 20 per cent.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Burj Dubai photo update may 6th 2009

Burj Dubai photo update may 6th 2009, here is some nice photos of the Burj Dubai taken today. The Burj has now topped out and it's at 818 meters.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Burj Dubai interior work in progress

Work on the interiors of Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building developed by Emaar Properties, is progressing alongside the tower's exterior cladding.

The tower is currently over 800 metres (2,624.7 ft) high. The interior design of Burj Dubai was conceptualised and led by designer Nada Andric of Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM).

Mohamed Alabbar, Chairman, Emaar Properties, said: "Burj Dubai is a once-in-a-lifetime architectural accomplishment and is the Arab World's tribute to the art and science of modern engineering and design."

He added: "The interiors place a special focus on the region's heritage and geographical location in its design approach and selection of materials. The design emphasises on the best results in space planning and utilisation alongside the finest detailing, to give residents and visitors an unprecedented lifestyle experience."

Apart from glass, stainless steel and dark stones, the interiors also feature Silver Travertine flooring, Venetian stucco walls, handmade rugs, stone flooring and dark, intricate Brazilian Santos Rosewood to reflect shelter, comfort, and above all, restrained luxury. Surfaces on the upper floors will be advanced in finishes of silver metallic lacquers to provide a sense of brightness.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Burj Dubai and Dubai skyline

Here is a nice photo of the skyline of Dubai and the Burj dubai tower. The second photo is a photoshop edited version of what Dubai might look like in the future with more 400 to 500 meter skycrapers.

Photosshop version of what Dubai might look like in the near future...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Burj Dubai Lobby

Here is a nice photo of the Burj Dubai lobby.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Burj Dubai photo update may 1st 2009

Burj Dubai photo update may 1st 2009, photos were taken standing on the roof of the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel at the Sheikh Zayed Road.

Zoomed photo of Burj Dubai