Friday 24th December 2010- The day I experienced Architectural Nirvana. The day I was fortunate enough to visit Burj Khalifa…
From the moment it was declared to be built, and till the final unveiling of the Tower, I was an avid fan. It is an inspirational building. It is ambitious. It is built to defy all rules and make a statement. It is shouting to the world, Look at Me! I would have given my right arm to visit this building. I got my wish, without giving away any limbs.
I tilted my head backwards to behold the building in its entirety. My neck began to ache, yet I could not take my eyes off this…this….beautiful monstrosity. The afternoon sun was being reflected by the gleaming panels, against a backdrop of cloudless sky. We made our way into Dubai Mall (The World’s Largest Shopping Mall) , and into the public entrance.
Burj Khalifa Public Entrance
We showed our tickets to the lady in black, and made our way into the building. The excitement began to build up as we realised we were entering the Tallest Building ever made by mankind. This journey was filled with the sharing of knowledge as we read out loud the facts and figures written on the walls…” 200+ storeys: The most number of floors ever in a building”….”95 km: Distance from which a person can see the top of the spire”.
There was a graphic Burj Khalifa being built from stage one to finish in front of our eyes. There was explanation of each step of the making. The concept that came from a flower, which formed the footprint of the building : The design of three petals. I was reminded of my own architectural studies and was happy to find that much of the concept work I undertook myself at the start of every project, was being reflected to me here. The major point I admired was photographs of workers, and the stage they were given within this building process. There had been much speculation of the building workers’ rights and welfare. However, being given their own platform and recognition where it was deserved was commendable.
We had to pass yet another checkpoint for tickets and through a swivel door, and there we finally packed ourselves into a spacious metalic lift. The Lift Man, dressed prim and proper in a black suit, stated that we will reach our destination : the 124th Floor, in just 60 seconds. “60 SECONDS?!” we all exclaimed. “Yes, 60 seconds” he said, with a smirk. He had obviously heard this comment before.
We started the countdown, and as the doors of the lift closed, it came to life. Music and lights within the lift, and the higher we got, the faster the music got. This and the numbers on a screen were the only indication that the lift was moving. That and an ear pop which one may experience when your flight is taking off. 60 seconds later, the lift doors opened.
We were blinded by the light, and took us a few seconds to jostle out of the lift and find our bearings. In front of us was a full length window showing clear sky. Just a clear blue sky. I edged closer to the window and looked down to find all the tiny little buildings and moving cars. This is what Gulliver must feel like, I thought.
Stepping out on the Viewing Deck on the 124th Floor was simply spectacular. Feeling the cool breeze and being able to look out as far as the eye can see, trying to find the edge of the world. They say that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”….but if that beholder is standing 1600 ft above the ground, can you even begin to imagine the beauty?
There was a very clever piece of machinery stationed in all corners of the deck which allowed the spectator to zoom a camera into the world below and see what was going on all those feet below. It even shifted from day to night view, and also gave a historic view of that exact location but 60 or so years ago, showing barren land and only a few buildings.
I was expecting someone in a suit any minute to come along and declare that time was up and we had to make our way down. To my surprise, I found out that we could stay up here on the deck as long as we wished. Surely this was the icing on the cake! I watched the sun set from the vast windows and watched as the sky darkened from clear blue to a navy blue. I could not tear myself away, and I wanted to cherish and capture this moment in my mind.
Burj Khalifa was all that it set out to be. I was overwhelmed, and after seeing the details, from the flower to the blue prints, I was even more in love with this building. The end result is exceptional. My experience was more than I could have imagined and I applaud all those that were involved in this epic accomplishment.
I had tasted the icing on the cake. This was the end, right? We would descend, and it would be over. Wrong. There was more to come. Every day at 6 pm, and from then every half hour till night fell, the Dancing Fountain at the foot of Burj Khalifa came to life. We checked our clocks, and at 5.45 pm began our descent. Again, we were educated along the way. There were diagrams and technical explanations of how the building was built.
Burj Khalifa lit in the dark: Photograph by Wafa Sheikh
We stepped out to breathe the gulf air from ground level once again, and there was already a throng of people collecting themselves near the fountain. My fiancé took me by the hand and we weaved our way onto a higher platform. Silence….and then, the softest of Arabic music. The music picked up and the fountain show began. I found myself tilting my head backwards yet again to see how far the water touched the sky. The music boomed in the public’s heart. The atmosphere was electrifying. I held my breathe and it was over with a ‘Whooosh’ and a ‘Boom’. Inside myself, I could hear the reverberations of the music still. Dubai had got my attention, and like a 5 year old, I wanted to cry out “Again, again, again!!”
Needless to say, I watched another two fountain shows before I finally tore myself away.
Friday 24th December 2010- The day I was Enchanted.