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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

My one is bigger than yours

Now this is something I look forward to seeing, at least virtually:

The Mile High Tower will be double the height of its nearest rival, and will be almost seven times the height of the Canary Wharf tower in London. Visitors will be able to see Africa from the top of the tower, the Sunday Times newspaper reports [...] The project will push architecture and engineering to new limits, as the tower must be robust enough to withstand the extremes of temperature and strong desert winds in the region.

What a pity it is going to be in Jeddah as much as I would like to see it up close, not even that marvel could induce me to set foot in that theocratic hell hole.

29 comments to My one is bigger than yours

  • marc in calgary

    world’s tallest target?

  • Laird

    You know what they say: mechanical engineers build weapons; civil engineers build targets.

  • Kevin B

    I used to visit the Gulf occasionally on business. There is a beautiful golden glass pyramid in Doha which was absolutely incredible to see in the light of dawn.

    When I remarked on it’s stunning beauty to an old ex-pat he replied that ten years after the oil ran out the whole lot would return to desert.

    I suspect that being in Jeddah this building might survive a bit longer on the pilgrim trade.

    In case you think I fell for the cynicism I can attest that the Gulf state cities are very high maintenance due to the shortage of water and the corrosive nature of the sand. Yes, they even have to import sand to line culverts, foundations and the like. At the moment they can afford to employ ex-pat workers both in the high tech and grunt work sectors, but without a non-oil economy to speak of, the future doesn’t look bright.

  • Kevin B, that sounds like the Doha Sheraton, although I haven’t been back for 20 years.

    I did some work there and was told that it had stood as a partially finished shell for a long time exposed to the elements, a consequence being that dancing was not permitted in the rooftop restaurant…

    It was a superb building though, scenic lifts up the interior!

  • Bogdan of Australia

    Yeah, when you not that much sure of your own prick, you attempt to compensate it with building a BIG TOWER, or even better with circumsizing your woman…

  • James Strong

    A target indeed, and should be publicly classified as such.
    If there is another attack on the West, inspired or justified by reference to Islam the West should state that it will retaliate by demolishing the mile-high tower in Jeddah, the Faisaliyah tower in Riyadh and the Oxo cube in Mecca.

    While peace prevails let’s enjoy it as a great achievement of Saudi archtiects and engineers and industrious Saudi workers.

  • James, I actually tend to think that if this tower is in danger of an attack, it would be from the local Muslims.

  • Plamus

    Somebody in the kingdom of Saud is overcompensating for something…

  • James, actually the engineers are British – Hyder Consulting and Arup – so it would only be an achievement of Saudi money rather than Saudi technology.

  • Nick M

    Alisa is correct.

    It undoubtedly overshadows some historic mosque and that will put assorted beards into hissy fits.

    Mohammed Atta of 9/11 infamy was an architect remember and he got very upset over Hiltons and Sheratons towering over his native Cairo.

    If there is to be life post-oil for the ME then such developments are necessary. But I wouldn’t bet against them putting a few noses out of joint amongst the “traditionalists”.

  • Kevyn Bodman

    When James writes about
    ‘great achievement of Saudi architects and engineers and industrious Saudi workers’
    I think he has misunderstood how things are done.
    On the other hand I wonder if perhaps he has been to the Gulf and is taking the p*ss.

  • Jacob

    A nice building is a nice building, like a nice flower, only more so, being man-made. I like nice buildings, and applaud the Saudis and the Dubais for building them. They are better than many buildings built in the West, (not to speak of communist architecture which is horrible).

    And they aren’t in danger of falling into decay for at least several decades. The oil won’t run out so fast.

    Of course, there was no utilitarian need for such towers, as they don’t lack ground space there in the desert. They build them as kind of an ode or symbol to human acheivement – they mean it as an ode to themselves (the Sheiks who rule there), but we can ignore them and see it as an ode to the builders (the contracted foreigners who actually build the towers).

    They could do worse with their money. It’s telling what they have chosen as a symbol of their riches. Good choice.

  • Paul Marks

    I think the Burj Dubai will be finished – it has gone so far they might as well finish it.

    Which makes the projects in New York and Chicago a bit pointless – as the new towers there (an office block in New York and housing block in Chicago) will be finished later and will be shorter.

    Well the “Liberty Tower” in New York will at least act as memorial for 9/11 and it looks O.K., but the Chicago thing (which I am told has been started now) looks vile – if I understood links I would make one. Chicago should either be satisfied with the Sears Tower (which I like) or build something taller that does not look like a long tube trying to stand upright.

    I think the Burj Dubai looks rather nice – not a bad tallest building in the world. And Dubai is supposed to be O.K. Perry.

    I do not think it matters what the Saudi tower is planned to look like – I strongly suspect it will never be finished.

  • Midwesterner

    I agree, Paul. The Burj Dubai is beautiful. But I may have an aesthetic bias. It was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, a Chicago firm who also designed the Sears Tower.

    And it is inspired by a design by a Wisconsin native of Welsh descent, Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for ‘The Illinois’, which was to be one mile high and built in Chicago. But frankly, I think the Burj Dubai is much better looking that FLW’s design.

    I don’t think the Trump Chicago is the one you are referring to. To my eye it is neither attractive or ugly, just functional. I think you are probably referring to the Chicago Spire, which looks like a machinist’s reaming tool. But at least it is a very practical design. It has a huge amount of floor area for the footprint compared to other more aesthetically pleasing designs like the Burj. And I think the twists besides appearance have something to do with wind and oscillations. Not sure on that though. But yes, it is a tall rather utilitarian tube.

  • A mile-high tower is going to have to do something pretty spectacular with the lifts. No-one’s going to live in it if it takes 45 minutes to get to the top.

  • Midwesterner

    David Gillies,

    I think more importantly they will have to do something with the lift shafts. There is no way that each cabin can have a dedicated shaft. There would be room for nothing else. I think some form of vertical cog rail train sort of thing will be needed. With up shafts and down shafts and redundant safeties of course.

  • Midwesterner

    Incidentally, elevators are faster than you think. The world’s fastest (in Taipei 101) would reach the top of a mile high building in about 1.6 minutes. The fastest elevator I have ever been in (the John Hancock building in Chicago) would take almost three minutes to go 1 mile straight up.

  • Lift shafts and stair wells is what makes too tall buildings uneconomic. They eat up too much of the useful floor space. They make some sense where land is scarce and land prices are very high.

    This tower isn’t a building in the economic, utilitarian sense – it’s a statement, a symbol, a statue, a monument.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes you have a better memory than me Midwesterner, it was indeed the Chicago Spire (which, of course, is not a spire).

    The D.B. designed by the same firm that designed the Sears Tower – interesting.

    I am not a smoker but when I heard the designer of the Sears Tower say he got the idea for the design by seeing some cigarettes standing out of a pack, I warmed to the man – it was a very unfancy thing to say.

  • They make some sense where land is scarce and land prices are very high.

    Well, this is where they are being built, aren’t they. There are none in rural Wyoming – unless Dale attests otherwise. As to elevators speed: it takes 10 min to get to my house from the entrance of my suburban development, so the tower with its apartment 3 min away is clearly a winner.

  • Midwesterner

    he got the idea for the design by seeing some cigarettes standing out of a pack

    I had never heard that but now that you say it, I can see it. For some reason it makes me like the look (and the very ‘incorrect’ architect) quite a bit more. Regrettably, I’ve never been up that one. I shall try to rectify that oversight.

  • nick g.

    Those Arabs ruin everything! It’s now going to be too easy to join the ‘mile-high’ club!!! Just another reason to set fire to a mosque!

  • Jacob

    Well, this is where they are being built, aren’t they.

    I was speaking about the towers in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. I don’t know the exact prices of real estate in those places, I just guessed that desert land isn’t scarce.
    But high towers, beyond some height, don’t make economic sense even in New York or Chicago. They too, are more of a symbol than a business (though they are both). Seems to me that even the WTC at 1/4 of a mile height wasn’t a big economic success. I might be wrong about WTC, but I’m pretty sure a mile high tower isn’t economic.

  • Jacob

    What I mean is: if you need x square feet of floor space it’s probably more economic to build four 1/4 mile towers than one I mile high tower.

  • Why, because of maintenance costs?

    I was speaking about the towers in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. I don’t know the exact prices of real estate in those places, I just guessed that desert land isn’t scarce.

    I understand that. Still, they are being built in urban centers (or in exotic locations, such as artificial islands shaped as palm trees). Land in the US in general isn’t scarce either (see rural Wyoming).

  • Jacob, what field of engineering are you in?

  • Jacob

    Land in the US in general isn’t scarce either (see rural Wyoming).

    They don’t build sky scarpers in rural Wyoming. They build them in the downtowns of big cities, realy big cities (NY, Chicago), because there is demand there for very high priced office space, within a small area of downtown.
    Office space in skyscrapers is expensive to build and mantain, and skyscrapers are economically feasible only in such downtowns (if at all). The higher the price of land the more economic sense it makes to build high rise buildings.
    There are absolutely no economic reasons to build sky scrapers in Dubai or Riad. Land prices aren’t so high there, even in the center of those cities (I guess), and office space demand probably isn’t very high too (at least as compared to, say, Manhattan). Building 20, 30 or 50 story high building would have been more than enough (I guess) as far as real needs (economic needs)are concerned. (A mile high tower implies 400 stories or so).

    Building mile high buildings isn’t different from building cathedrals in the middle ages – it’s an exercise in symbolism – devoid of any practical content.

    Still, we should applaud them for choosing mile high buildings as their language of symbolism. It shows that Western culture has gained a foothold there along with coca-cola and macDonald. I wish that Iran was building mile high buildings as a power symbol, rather than nuclear weapons.

  • doug in Colorado

    Tower of Babel, anyone? House built upon sand? Any other metaphors come to mind?

    (Retired Civil Engineer here…)

  • Max

    There is a lot of labour traficking also happening illegally there to make their infrastucture better.