Explore The World’s Tallest Building In Google Street View

Burj Khalifa on Google Street View
Nicolas Lannuzel

At 2722 feet in height, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world and quite an impressive feat of modern engineering. Since its opening in 2010, the glass and metal spire has become an iconic structure, even managing to stand out in a city that is known for its over-the-top architecture. Most of us will probably never get an opportunity to see it in person, let alone step inside, but now, thanks to Google Street View, we can still explore the building in all of its glory.

Yesterday, Google added the Burj to the ever growing number of places that it has cataloged and put online as part of Street View. The building is the first ever skyscraper to make the cut and the first place in the Arab World to be added as well.

In order to capture the Burj for use in Street View, Google employees spent three days walking in and around the building while wearing the Trekker backpack. That device, which has been specially built for capturing places that the Street View cars can’t go, shoots 360° panoramic photos that are later incorporated into the system. In this case, it captured the view from the observation tower on the 124th floor as well as from the world’s highest swimming pool on the seventh floor, amongst various other locations throughout the building.

You can begin your exploration of the Burj by clicking here. But before you do, check out the video below that gives you a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at this amazing structure and the lengths Google had to go to capture it.

Exploring the world’s tallest structure – the Burj Khalifa

burj khalifaThe tallest building in the world does not appear made for this earth. By day it looks photoshopped into its downtown Dubai surroundings, and by night, the hulking spire looks like a rocket bound for the furthest reaches of our galaxy. And like a giant middle finger to its predecessors in the tallest building club, the structure is a testament to the audacity of Dubai – an idea that, what they build is what they are, and they are going to try and build the best.

While the world economic markets receded, Dubai kept building the beast called Khalifa. At a cost of $1.5 billion and a height of 2,717 feet, it humbles the surrounding skyscrapers in downtown Dubai. It possesses at least fifteen world records. It has the highest restaurant, the most floors, and is also the tallest structure ever built. The Middle East has not been home to the world’s tallest structure since 700 years ago, when the Great Pyramid of Giza was eclipsed by Lincoln Cathedral in England.

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While said to be inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s plans to build a mythical mile-high tower called “The Illinois” in the fifties, the Burj Khalifa is very real, and very original. The foundation for the building is based on the petals of the Hymenocallis flower, and it took 10,000 people from virtually every country in the world to complete the construction project. Named after the president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the engineering marvel took over 5 years to build, opening in 2010.

The Burj Khalifa is a mixed use tower with offices, residences, the Armani Hotel, and a restaurant called At.mosphere.

At the Top
The official visitor attraction for the Burj Khalifa is called “At the Top” and begins in Dubai Mall, next to the tower. The experience leads visitors through various multimedia presentations that trace the building of Khalifa. A travelator also cruises through a history of Dubai presentation in much appreciated air conditioning. After passing through some general Burj propaganda that includes the superimposing of the Burj Khalifa in a variety of cities, such as New York, one finally arrives at the elevators that ascend to the observation deck.

burj khalifaThe observation deck is on the 124th floor, and reaching it by elevator takes roughly one minute. At a rate of 59 feet per second, it is the fastest elevator in the world. From the 124th floor the view reaches for miles and miles. All of Dubai looks like some sort of Lego set made by giants, unfinished and reaching for open space. The streets head in no particular direction and other skyscrapers appear tame and arbitrary.

A 360 degree panorama is provided from the observation deck, providing epic views of the city, sea, and desert. On clear days, one can glimpse man-made islands floating in the Arabian gulf. If, by chance, a visitor finds himself aching to buy some gold at this height, thankfully an ATM that distributes gold bars is available. File that under Only in Dubai.

The cost of admission varies. Since this is Dubai, there is an expensive option in addition to regular admission. The “immediate entry” choice costs four times regular admission, but one will be able to skip the line. This option is 400 AED ($108), and regular admission is 100 AED ($27). If time is greater than money, then the “immediate entry” preference is for you. Hours of operation are 10:00am to 12:00am daily. Booking in advance on the Burj Khalifa website is extremely wise.

The Armani Hotel
The Armani Hotel offers hotel rooms and residences in the Burj Khalifa. The first hotel named after fashion magnate Giorgio Armani minimizes all unnecessary aspects of hotel operations, delivering a sleek experience from end to end. The check in desk has been abolished, instead light conversation guides the process along. The desk in a “Classic” guestroom is a cube that one must slowly unfold, opening up an expanse in which to write love letters to minimalist designers. While Giorgio may or may not be a fan of desks, the point is minimalization, and it works wonderfully.

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The colors are neutral, the lines are clean, and everything feels easy. This easiness translates to a feeling of being at home – even in bustling downtown Dubai with the pretension of a designer hotel in the world’s tallest building. To cut through that thick ostentation and provide comfort first is a noteworthy accomplishment. (Also of note, free pencil sharpeners and erasers, festooned with “Armani Hotel Dubai,” are there for those that open the guestroom desk.)

The beds in a hotel named for a fashion designer known for his legendary hand in selecting fabrics better be exceptional. And they are. They may be the most comfortable hotel beds in Dubai, perhaps Asia even. Surely, many morning meetings are missed due to the excessive coziness provided by the floppy soft comforter and cushiony mattress. Long after checking out, two memories linger in the mind of the traveler – the bed and the view. The view is exceptional, especially on the fountain-side. It is definitely worth splurging for a fountain-side room and watching the nightly Dubai Fountain show erupt beneath.

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Pricing for rooms starts at around $450 (after taxes) if booked through an aggregator site like Kayak. The top-end Dubai Suite costs thousands more. The hotel boasts 5 stars, and has an Armani branded on premise spa as well as dining.

At.mosphere
The tallest restaurant in the world is located on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa. This den of gastronomical excellence known as At.mosphere is helmed by Chef Dwayne Cheer. Due to safety issues with cooking at such a height, no gas can be used in the kitchen. Instead, a binchōtan charcoal oven is used. The oven is utilized expertly in preparing amazing dishes such as pan fried fois gras with espresso reduction and amaretto foam as well as seared diver scallops with cauliflower puree and grapefruit grenobloise. At.mosphere was profiled last week here at Gadling.

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The Dubai Fountain
The brilliant designers behind the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas lent their extraordinary talents to a fountain complex directly beneath the Burj Khalifa’s menacing spire. Considered the largest dancing fountain display in the world, the Dubai Fountain covers a distance of 900 feet and shoots water up to 500 feet in the sky. Nightly shows occur every 30 minutes from 6:00pm to 10:00pm on weekdays and until 11:00pm on weekends. The accompanying light show is so bright it can be seen from space. The elaborate fountain cost over $200 million to build.

All photography by Justin Delaney

Support for this program was partially provided by DTCM, with no limits on editorial or photographic content.

Seven courses at the highest restaurant in the world – At.mosphere in Dubai

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Dubai is a city of realized hyperbole. It has the tallest building in the world, man-made islands shaped like the world’s continents, and a restaurant high high above the towering skyscrapers below. At.mosphere, a restaurant in Dubai’s towering Burj Khalifa, provides a dining experience with a view reminiscent of glancing out the window of a plane. It is preposterously thrilling to savor a plate of foie gras 122 floors above what appears to be the world’s largest game of Sim City developing below, spreading out into open desert.

Reaching At.mosphere involves a few steps absent from most dining arrangements. First, one must enter the tallest building in the world, approach a sleek metal elevator, and make a very important choice that is really no choice at all. Only one option exists in the elevator – floor 123. With no stops to make on the way up, the elevator travels with a speedy transcendence that feels just a few technological steps removed from teleportation – 33 feet per second. In the time it takes a middle school graduate to read this paragraph, the doors swing open to reveal a spiral staircase leading to the restaurant one floor below.


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At.mosphere is not a large restaurant, but floor to ceiling windows exaggerate its humble boundaries. It feels as though the entire sky is yours. Designed by Adam Tihany, the space strikes a fine balance between opulence and simplicity, allowing the view and the food to inspire diners unobstructed by unnecessary appointments. The lacquered mahogany walls and white tablecloth tables combine to create an elegantly modern aesthetic without being too pushy or over-extravagant – an issue that seems to surface frequently in Dubai.

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Holding diners’ attention with such a world class view is a challenging proposition. Chef Dwayne Cheer is up to the task and delivers inspired dishes with ingredients as globally sourced as Dubai. Vegetables from Provence, bush lamb from Australia, and lobsters from Maine round out an unlikely cast of characters to be found in the Middle-east. Due to a safety issue of cooking at such a lofty height in a confined space, using gas in the kitchen is not possible. The Chef and his team side-step this issue by employing the “Mighty Josper” – a BBQ oven that utilizes Binchōtan charcoal to grill tender vessels of deliciousness. The Josper Oven is a Spanish invention and has enjoyed tremendous success throughout Europe.

The food is worthy of superlative, and the occasional joy-filled expletive. While the a la carte menu boasts many intriguing selections, the set menu provides a tantalizing flight around the world. From first to last, each dish inspired. Like a man with no issues regarding his expanding waistline, I took to each plate with a reckless abandon, devouring seven in a row while putting back no less than three mocktails. I felt like an imperial Epicurean, conquering all foods into the empire of my stomach. At the end of the feast, as sugar coursed through my body and the taste of wagyū lingered on my palette, I was ever thankful for Chef Cheer and his mighty Josper oven. Here is how I reached this point of culinary nirvana:

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Course One: Asparagus soup with king crab, pea shoots, and gold

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Course Two: Seared diver scallops with cauliflower puree and grapefruit grenobloise

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Course Three: Pan fried fois gras with espresso reduction and amaretto foam

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Course Four: Pan fried whitefish with lemon balm in mangosteen broth

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Course Five: Wagyu Beef with baby veggies, potato puree, and smoky pepper jus

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Course Six: Fromage frais with raspberry sorbet and fresh apple

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Course Seven: The Gianduja – gianduja mousse with bitter chocolate sorbet and caramelized hazelnut, topped with gold

Every dish stole my heart. The fois gras tasted delicate and extremely sweet, challenging my taste buds with its complex dichotomy of flavors. The wagyu beef fell apart with each bite, its tenderness lending an ephemeral quality to the storied Japanese beef. The Gianduja almost changed my religion. I contemplated worshiping only food after the third bite.

In the end, I felt like an upmarket Adam Richman, exhausted from this crippling conquest of food and drink. Without a doubt, when in Dubai, visit At.mosphere. The view is unparalleled, the food is exquisitely concocted, and while the name is a bit on the contrived side, it is the one thing that is undoubtedly forgivable in a restaurant. At.mosphere is a special restaurant, and as the highest in the world, it will remain one of Dubai’s most popular establishments.

Eating there: At.mospere is located in downtown Dubai in the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world. Reservations are a must and can be made by emailing a reservation request to reservations@atmosphereburjkhalifa.com. The restaurant side of At.mospere, known as the Grill, is open for lunch from 12:30pm – 3:00pm and for dinner from 7:00pm – 11:30pm. The lounge portion of At.mosphere is open from 12:00pm – 2:00am. An a la carte menu can be viewed here. Offerings range from 110 AED ($30) to 590 AED ($160).

On a budget, but want to take in the view and atmosphere? Stop by the At.mosphere lounge for an adult beverage or mocktail.

All photography by Justin Delaney

Support for this program was partially provided by DTCM, with no limits on editorial or photographic content.

Chinese get serious about tallest hotel – plan to clone Dubai Burj Khalifa

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If you can’t beat them, copy them – consider that the logic behind the news yesterday that the Chinese have hired a Saudi construction firm to build what could become the next tallest hotel in the world. Its inspiration? The 2,716ft tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai of course.

The Beijing tower is currently well into the planning phase and will be situated at the end of Chang Avenue, right across from Tiananmen Square.

This all comes a mere three weeks after another Chinese hotel tried to claim the fame when they announced a new hotel to be built in Shanghai. As with most of these “tallest”, not that many details were revealed, and the final height, number of hotel floors and completion date were not published. But with an estimated construction price of $1.3bn, you can assume it’ll be absolutely mindblowingly tall.

%Gallery-81382%Just how tall is this building? Check out this video shot from the top:

[Photo of Burj Khalifa from AP/Getty Images]

A Peek into the Future of Dubai

Today, the city of Dubai announced it has purchased the Queen Elizabeth 2, “one of the world’s most majestic cruise liners,” to convert into a luxury hotel. The QE2 will be completely renovated and parked at the world’s largest man-made island, Palm Jumeirah. The restoration process will stay true to the original design of the ship, and a museum will be built inside to educate visitors on the liner’s legacy.

What’s else in store for the booming city of Dubai? Here’s a quick rundown of current, future, and conceptual projects in the United Arab Emirates’s oasis in the desert.

We talked about it earlier today, but the outrageousness of the resort complex dubbed The Cloud makes it worthy of another mention. Nadim Karam, a Lebanese architect, presented this resort-in-the-sky concept at the International Design Forum in Dubai last month. The actual resort will resemble a cloud floating 300 meters in the air, with slanting support beams that look like sheets of rain. Take that, Sandals! [Stage: Concept]

Who needs Disneyworld when you’ve got Dubailand? Announced in 2003, this super-sized mega theme park (the builders prefer to think of it as a true city) will consist of six poorly named “worlds”: Attractions & Experience World, Retail and Entertainment World, Themed Leisure and Vacation World, Eco-Tourism World, Sports and Outdoor World, and Downtown, each containing a total of 26 “sub-worlds.” Downtown will feature the world’s largest shopping mall, called Mall of Dubai. Coffee lovers unite: the Mall of Dubai will eventually feature the world’s largest Starbucks. [Stage: Under Construction]

Bigger is better, and Dubai has its sites set on the sky with the Burj Dubai. When construction finishes in 2009, the Burj Dubai will most likely be the tallest “land-based structure” (which includes buildings and towers) in the world. Why most likely? “The projected final height of the Burj Dubai is officially being kept a secret due to competition,” according to its Wikipedia entry. Makes sense — why announce an official height when you can just continue building if someone else announces a larger project? Clever. [Status: Under Construction]

Italian-Israeli architect, David Fisher, unveiled in April a 68-story “spinning tower” he hopes to see join the the Dubai skyline in the future. Unlike existing structures that have a single revolving floor (San Antonio’s Tower of the Americas comes to mind, among many others), “[e]ach floor would rotate independently, creating a constantly changing architectural form,” says the Wall Street Journal. This is by far the coolest concept building I’ve found, Dubai or not. It reminds me a bit of Jenga, only…you know…much cooler. [Status: Concept]