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Burj Khalifa

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Client: Emaar Properties
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill / Adrian Smith
Completion: 2010

The Burj Khalifa rises over 828 meters (2,717 ft.), earning the title of the world’s tallest building, capping Taipei 101 by 318 meters. The $1.5 billion mixed-use tower spans 162 habitable floors, featuring office, residential and the chic Armani Hotel.

A tower, so tall and slender that it dwarfs everything around it, does not need a spectacle of light to ensure its visibility. Floodlighting this tower from its site perimeter was not an option, as the sweeping desert sands and high humidity from the Arabian Gulf would tent the structure in a perennial cloud. The narrow, almost vertical solution is an exposition of restrained and minimalist design. Raking uplight from atop the terraced prows of the building’s three legs saves energy and ensures minimal light trespass for the residential tenants and little skylight pollution. The skyscraper is surrounded by the 30-acre Burj Park, the world’s biggest mall and a ring of 50-story residential towers.

There are three entry pavilions nestled between the “legs” of the tower for residential tenants, office tenants and the Armani Hotel. Between the double glazing of the pavilions, evenly spaced arrays of uplights along the floors fill the interior of the lobbies with a bright ambient light, creating luminous jewel-like entries.

The office pavilion, entered from a below ground private parking level, is lighted by a luminous glass skirt providing a counterpoint to the dramatic glass atrium, eliminating dark shadows typically found at below ground access points. The residential lobby contains a large sculpture by Jaume Plense titled World Voices, where the bronze-and-brass structure is uplighted by submersed fixtures, creating a dancing illumination across the cymbals.

  • 2011 Palme Middle East Award: Best Use of Exterior Lighting
  • 2011 IESNY Lumen Certification for Exterior Lighting
  • 2011 IES Special Citation for Understated and Effective Illumination of the World’s Tallest Building
  • 2011 The Paul Waterbury Award for Outdoor Lighting