Thursday, February 11, 2010

Burj Update

by EJF, High on Architecture / Above: the surreal view from the Burj observation deck.

The Burj Khalifa, the gargantuan spire that now dominates the skyline of Dubai, is experiencing a few growing pains.  Last Saturday, a number of tourists were stranded in the "At the Top" observatory on the 124th floor for about an hour.  The culprit:  an electrical issue with the elevators.  Apparently, no one was physically harmed, though some minor panic set in among the visitors trapped at such a great elevation.  The Burj is doing the inevitable P.R. shuffle over the event, but whatever the spin, it brings to mind a simple truth:  buildings aren't perfect.  And no one knows that better than Frank Lloyd Wright and his many clients.

Wright's audacious, unbuilt design for the Illinois ("Mile High") building may have served as an inspiration for the bundled mega-tower of the Burj, and it's anyone's guess as to the structural and mechanical problems that the much higher Wright tower might have experienced if built.  Wright's built work, for that matter, is somewhat notorious for structural and mechanical problems:  leaky roofs, sagging cantilevers, drafty art glass windows, and et cetera.  The debate over the "success" of Wright's built work is one for an entire symposium - one that should consider Wright's spatial, psychological and even spiritual achievements along with the performance of his roofs.  So, for the tallest building in the world with the longest elevators and other mechanical systems that must also classify it as one of the world's largest machines, one should expect a few bugs in the system, especially in its first year of operation.  

R:  Burj Khalifa's many elevators

And as for those accidental captives on the Burj observation deck: what a space to have to kill an hour in - versus sitting on the runway at JFK for several hours.  

Are you reading this, JetBlue? 

1 comment:

Heidi Ruby Miller said...

Hello from a fellow Wright site staffer (Kentuck Knob in PA)!

I agree that Mr. Wright's mile-high building could have been an inspiration for the Burj, and probably for many other structures, built or unbuilt.

I've been researching many of Mr. Wright's unbuilt plans and am amazed at how many there actually were. How incredible it would have been to see some of them realized...