Building Momentum: How Burj Khalifa Changed Dubai and the Middle East

William Baker
Partner
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, Chicago

As the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa is renowned globally as a feat of engineering and architectural elegance. Beyond its role as the world’s tallest, Burj Khalifa has become an emblem for the ongoing growth of the United Arab Emirates, and has served as an economic driver for the Middle East for nearly a decade.

In 2002, the Petronas Towers were the tallest buildings in the world—Burj Khalifa was merely an idea. A relatively unknown city at the time, Dubai had not yet begun to flourish as a contemporary urban center and global tourism hub. Fifteen years later, Dubai has quickly exceeded sixteen million tourists annually, placing fourth in the world for international visitors after Bangkok, London, and Paris. This begs the question: what role did the Burj Khalifa play in Dubai’s growth as an evolved urban center, and as a global player in an increasingly connected Middle East region?

Eight years after the opening of Burj Khalifa, we’re looking beyond it role as an icon on the Dubai skyline to explore its undeniable effect on the city, surrounding region, and the design of supertall towers globally. How did the ideas behind Burj Khalifa encourage urbanism-oriented thinking, interconnectedness in the Middle East, and forward-focused infrastructure? How did its design concept advance the evolution of supertall towers around the world? This presentation will explore how a unique collaboration between the world’s leading interdisciplinary firm of architects, engineers, sustainable designers, interior designers, and urban planners worked with an ambitious client to establish Burj Khalifa as an outward-facing integrated vertical city and a driver of urban and economic growth for Dubai and the Middle East.