Architecture of the Burj Khalifa

The tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is a feat of modern architecture and engineering.

Article By: Francesca Burke
Last Update: July 2019


At 828m (2,717 feet), the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is the tallest building in the world. It has 162 storeys, containing apartments, hotels and shops, and is one of the most recognisable buildings in the Middle East.

The Burj Khalifa, originally known as the Burj Dubai, was designed by American architect Adrian Smith while he worked at Skidmore, Owings & Merril. Its design was inspired by the patterns found in Islamic architecture, as well as the delicate spider lily plant. The floor plan is in a Y shape, which maximises the available floor space and keeps the building stable. Extensive wind tunnel tests ensured the building could withstand weather changes, while the building uses the traditional tube structure design of most skyscrapers.

What’s more, the Burj Khalifa is shaped slightly differently at each tier to prevent wind vortexes from merging around the tower. Around 330,000m³ of concrete and 39,000 tonnes of steel rebar were used in construction. Furthermore, the cladding consists of stainless steel, aluminium, and 26,000 reflective glass panels, providing an anti-glare shield against the desert sun.

Burj Khalifa in Dubai, 2012


Construction started in 2004 and the building opened in 2010. Although the Burj Khalifa has won numerous architecture awards and has generally been well-received by the public, construction was mired in controversy as the primary labour force was made up of South and East Asian migrant workers, working for a low wage.

The Barj Khalifa is one of the most eye-catching buildings on the planet, and has featured in films including Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Independence Day: Resurgance. French climber Alain Robert climbed the side of the skyscraper in 2011, and in 2014 French BASE jumpers Vince Reffet and Fred Fugen broke the Guinness world record for the highest BASE jump from a building when they jumped from the top of the pinnacle.

Unfortunately, no height record lasts long in the world of architecture. Work has already started on an even taller skyscraper in Dubai: the Creek Harbour Tower, which will house an estimated 40,000 people!

Burj Khalifa through an archway, Dubai

We hope this was an interesting insight into the world’s tallest building. Why not read some of our other posts about famous buildings and architecture?

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