Adrian Smith's Burj
I have a professional interest in the Burj Khalifa (Burj Dubai), so I've been reading a fair amount about it recently. Some of what I've seen is unimaginative What It Means commentary, as when the term hubris appears from the critic's tool chest, or comparisons are made to the Tower of Babel. Note, however, that instead of confounding mankind and his lofty ambitions with a diversity of tongues, this time around the Lord caused a real estate collapse. Not very Old Testament, if you asked me.
I haven't seen nearly as much written about what it's like to stand there and look up at the building, or go inside, now that it's open, or what kind of view is to be had from the top. It has to be impressive in person. Really tall things usually are. I doubt that I will ever make it to Dubai, but if I were in the neighborhood, I'd certainly want to take a long look at the thing, and not just because of the height.
"...it would be condescending to dispute that the tower is an impressive, supremely elegant edifice, or that it is nothing less than graceful compared with the plain cuboids from the age of functionalism or the gaudy, modern towers in places like Kuala Lumpur and Taipei," notes Business Week.
"According to the tower's US architect, Adrian Smith, the floor plan, a central core surrounded by three lobes, is patterned on the blossom structure of the Hymenocallis flower, a shape that simultaneously creates more visible surface area and reduces the wind pressure acting on buildings this tall," the magazine continues. "As it tapers upward, one of the three lobes is shifted slightly backward about every eight floors, an effect that is reminiscent of an Islamic spiral minaret and provides the tower with 26 terraces."
Adrian Smith (a Chicago architect, not just an American one) came to participate in a roundtable discussion my former magazine hosted in early 2002, so I've met the man. One of the points he made during that event was his dissatisfaction with the timidity of developers in the United States. At that juncture, even Donald Trump had scaled back his plans for his Chicago project, which Smith also designed.
Trump Chicago (formally, Trump International Hotel & Tower) has since been completed. I walked by the finished tower a few times during 2009, and even took a picture of it in September, which is to the left.
Not the world's tallest, or even Chicago's tallest, but it's a fine piece of work nevertheless. And like the Burj Khalifa, it will probably outlast me, you, Adrian Smith, Trump, the Emir of Dubai and various overintellectualizing critics of really tall buildings.