Saturday, July 19, 2008

Contest for tallest tower in the Gulf heats up

Dubai: Competition to build the world's tallest tower is hotting up in the Gulf as developers continue to battle it out with their increasingly ambitious designs and dizzying heights.

A report by Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) last week had said Nakheel was planning to increase the height of its Al Burj project to 1.4 kilometres, making it almost double the height of Emaar's Burj Dubai, which is said to be around 750 to 815 metres long. However, Nakheel has denied the report. A spokesperson for Nakheel said yesterday that the design of the project was still being finalised, but height won't necessarily be the focus of the tower.

"Although the project will be a significant architectural structure, it's worth noting that an iconic building doesn't necessarily have to be the tallest. For example, Sydney Opera House is an iconic building admired around the world and its worldwide appeal is not based on height," the spokesperson said. The Al Burj project had originally been planned at Dubai waterfront with an initial height of 1,050 metres. The project will now come up near Ibn Battuta Mall, a source told Gulf News.

Mall development

According to the MEED report, Ibn Battuta is increasing its retail space to 250,000 square metres, with entertainment attractions, including a roller coaster on top of the mall itself. Nakheel said further details on the tower are expected to be released by the end of this year. Meanwhile, there are rumours that the proposed Saudi Arabian mile-high tower will fall short of the hyped mile.

According to sources, the tower could reach 5,250 feet, four times the size of the Empire State Building in New York, with a development value of £5 billion. Unless you suffer from vertigo and if you can take the heady heights, from the top of the tower you'll be rewarded with an unparalleled view of the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian Ocean.

The project is being overseen by Saudi Prince Al Walid Bin Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, under his company, Kingdom Holdings, in a joint venture with London firms Hyder Consulting and Arup. Graham Whitehead, head of corporate communications at Hyder Consulting headquarters in London, told Gulf News that a confidentiality agreement had been signed between the parties involved and hence no details could be released. Although the height and design specifications can't be released until Kingdom Holdings gives permission, a spokesperson for Hyder Consulting in Dubai said: "They are aiming for the tallest building in the world."