Vertical Light – Burj Khalifa: Vertical Urbanism Illuminated

Kevin Frary
Associate Principal
Fisher Marantz Stone, Seattle

The physical manifestation of urban density in polycentric cities often results in a unique and recognizable skyline. The nighttime expression of that skyline is revealed and accentuated by lighting. Illuminated tower tops highlight the undulating nodes that form the unique character of central business districts and context of the city. Lighting of the public realm provides human scale connections between nodes and creates a safe, sustainable, and often walkable city for its inhabitants. At its best, lighting in polycentric cities connects the two-dimensional realm of urban planning and infrastructure with the three-dimensional realm of vertical towers to create a connected and cohesive urban fabric.

With 162 habitable floors featuring retail, restaurant, office, residential, and the chic Armani hotel, Burj Khalifa is an exemplar of vertical urbanism within a polycentric city. In addition to the tower, the district continues to be developed and is further enhanced by the surrounding 30-acre Burj Park, one of the world’s largest shopping malls, and a ring of 50-story residential towers.

This presentation explores and discusses key factors considered in the conceptualization, development, and mock-up studies performed throughout the design and construction of the architectural lighting for Burj Khalifa. While the lighting design of the Burj Khalifa provided plenty of challenges particular to the project, establishing a strong lighting concept and holding on to it for the duration of the project led to a lighting solution elegant in its simplicity and responsive to its environment. Though a tower so tall and slender that it dwarfs everything around it does not need a spectacle of light to ensure its visibility, the session also touches on the supplementary festival lighting.