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Dubai's new tower: Triumph or fiasco?
Critics debate whether the world's tallest skyscraper marks a high point, or a low point, in human history
Far and away the world's tallest structure, Dubai's new super-skyscraper is now officially open for business.
Far and away the world's tallest structure, Dubai's new super-skyscraper is now officially open for business.
Corbis
W

hile authorities in Dubai won't disclose the exact height of the Burj Dubai skyscraper, the 200-story building —approximately 1,000 feet taller than any other manmade structure — redefines the limits of architecture and, for many, exemplifies the excesses of a historic, decade-long Dubai boom. With the local economy now in miserable shape, does the Burj Dubai (or, Burj Khalifa, as the tower will be officially known) stand as an epic achievement or an epic blunder? (Watch an AP report about the Burj Dubai)

It's an insane boondoggle: This building is "an economically pointless symbol of prestige" and nothing more than a monument to "the power of money," says prominent German architect Meihard von Gerkan, as quoted in Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Predictably a money pit of this massive scale would be built in a Muslim country "where rationality" is subservient to "the need to demonstrate power."
"German architects snub the world's tallest building"

It's a symbol of Arab success: Keep in mind that just a few decades ago "Dubai was little more than a fishing village on the edge of a desert without a single air-conditioner," says Peter Cooper at ArabianMoney.net. Today, for the first time since the Middle Ages, the Arab World is back "on top." Despite all the talk of excess and crashes, "Dubai remains a formidable business enterprise. That is why Dubai is the home of the world’s tallest building."
"What does the Burj Dubai really symbolize?"

It's an architectural triumph: Sure, critics will harp about "catastrophic excess" and so on — but they always have when new frontiers of height are broken, says Steve Rose in the Guardian. What matters is that the Burj Dubai is a "stunning piece of architecture." The "sleek and elegant" tubular structure is an engineering marvel and the most beautiful tall building erected anywhere in the world since the 1930s.
"Burj Dubai is the height of architecture"

It's an enormous tombstone for the old way of doing things: The debut of the structure is an "odd" and "complicated" moment, says Christopher Hawthorne at the LA Times. While the skyscraper is impressive, its real "symbolic importance" is its emptiness: The Burj Dubai's vast array of residential and office space is largely unoccupied, "and is likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future." In essence, it stands as a massive reminder that the ravenous and unhinged sort of economic growth that made Dubai (as well as Las Vegas and many other places) rich in recent years has permanently come to an end.
"The Burj Dubai and architecture's vacant stare"

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