In a monument to what some have called the end of one of modern history's most hubristic bubbles of city development, the Burj Dubai officially opens today. The tallest building in the world, by far, it tops out at 2,684 feet and over 160 stories. That's taller than Chicago's Sears Tower — even if you put the Hancock Tower on top of it. (If you stacked our own lost Twin Towers atop of one another, you'd be just barely looking down to the top of the Burj's glass spire.) It was designed by the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill — the architecture firm also designing downtown's 1 World Trade Center. While Dubai's government-led economy has suffered a humiliating collapse in the past year, and the city's much-hyped (and absurd) real-estate bubble has deflated, about 90 percent of the 1,000 some-odd units have been sold in the new tower, which will include private residences and a hotel by Giorgio Armani.
The Chicago Tribune's Blair Kamin has an excellent write-up of the history and architecture behind the behemoth. The interior of the tower is as yet unfinished, but is served well, Kamin says, by the building's Y-shaped layout. How delicate the unwieldy giant looks and feels (and how fast you can get from top to bottom — in elevators that run up to 40 mph) is a tribute to designer Adrian Smith and engineer Bill Baker. Below, you can see the view from the observatory — please note the massive shadow that the building casts across the city around it. Update: The tower has now been re-named the Burj Khalifa, after UAE President and Abu Dhabi emir Khalifa Bin Zayed, who saved Dubai's tail late last year. Also, it's actually 2,717 feet tall.