New Dubai tower to reach for the clouds
Dubai is reaching for the sky once again, with the developer of the world's tallest building vowing to build an even taller tower bedecked with rotating balconies and elevated landscaping inspired by the mythical hanging gardens of Babylon.
The government-backed company behind the project, Emaar Properties, hopes the new tower will entice a fresh wave of view-seeking homeowners even as it raises numerous other promised skyscrapers and repairs a prominent one gutted by fire on New Year's Eve.
Company chairman Mohamed Alabbar said the new observation tower would be "a notch" taller than the 2,717ft Burj Khalifa, though he gave no specific figure.
Unlike the Burj Khalifa, the new tower will not be a traditional skyscraper but more of a cable-supported spire containing "garden" observation decks graced with trees and other greenery.
Emaar says it will also contain a boutique hotel, restaurants and glass balconies that rotate outside the wall of the tower.
The structure's design means it is unlikely to be widely recognised as a taller "building" than the Burj Khalifa even if it surpasses it in height.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat says at least 50% of a structure's height must contain usable floor area for it to be considered in its ranking of the world's tallest buildings. That typically disqualifies telecommunications and observation towers that have only a small number of floors.
But both the new tower and the Burj Khalifa could also be surpassed by a skyscraper being created in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, that promises to rise more than 3,281ft.
The new Dubai tower will be the centrepiece of a huge development on the edge of Dubai Creek, near a protected wildlife sanctuary that regularly attracts flamingos and other water birds.
Mr Alabbar likened the structure, designed by Spanish-Swiss architect Santiago Calatrava Valls, to a 21st-century Eiffel Tower that can act as a magnet not just for tourists but also for property buyers willing to pay a premium for nearby apartments with a view.
It is due to open by the time Dubai hosts the World Expo in 2020.
Emaar followed a similar strategy when it raised the Burj Khalifa, which opened in 2010. The silvery skyscraper is flanked by fancy low and high-rise apartment complexes, some of which are still being built, as well as hotels, restaurants and one of the world's biggest shopping centres.
The area is also home to The Address Downtown, a 63-storey luxury hotel built by Emaar that went up in flames on New Year's Eve.
Dubai police have blamed exposed wiring for sparking the blaze. Outside experts say the type of cladding used to sheath the building was likely a factor in fuelling that fire and several others that have engulfed skyscrapers in the United Arab Emirates.
Emirati authorities have ordered a nationwide safety survey of existing buildings and promised to tighten regulations in the wake of the fire.
Asked about fire risks, Mr Alabbar said it is important to learn from the accidents but he suggested there are limits to how much builders can do.
"Safety rules are good, but can you really eliminate all risk? I don't think human beings are able to eliminate all risk," he said.
"Risks are there as long as we are progressing... These things do happen, and you have to go and fix them and make sure if they happen, they happen to a minimum."