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.

Gucci sues over branded hotel in Dubai

Things are getting catty on the catwalk. Elisabetta Gucci’s plans to open a global chain of hotels under the Gucci name may be blocked by the luxury fashion company. Seems Gucci – the goods – doesn’t want any affiliation with Gucci – the hotel.

“Gucci wants to make clear that it has no relationship to Elisabetta Gucci Hotels and that it is not involved in any project whatsoever with Elisabetta Gucci Hotels,” the company said in the e-mail, obtained by Bloomberg news. “If necessary, Gucci will take any needful step to protect its rights.”

Elisabetta Gucci, daughter of late fashion mogul Paolo Gucci, plans to open an 87-suite property in Dubai’s Media World district by the end of 2010, as Gadling previously reported. The Dubai hotel will be first of 40 planned Branded EG Hotels by Elisabetta Gucci.

The EG Hotels by Elisabetta Gucci is set to open only a few months after the famed opening of the Armani Group’s Armani Hotel Dubai in Burj Khalifa. According to Bloomberg, EB Hotels is counting on drastically lower hotel rates than those charged at Armani Hotel, in an effort to increase travelers. Daily rates at the Elisabetta Gucci’s hotel would start at 1,500 dirhams ($408) compared with 4,000 dirhams per night at Armani.

[via BusinessWeek.com]

Diane von Furstenberg designs London’s Claridge hotel guestrooms

Ask any jetsetter to show you what’s in her carry-on bag and it’s likely she’ll produce a Diane von Furstenberg dress. After all, the iconic fashion designer does have a way with wraps (her legendary wrap-dress caused a sensation back in the 1970s and today, those dresses are a must-have in many closets).

Now comes word that von Furstenberg is bringing her designer dresses straight to the hotel – Claridge’s, to be exact – the five-star London hotel that she’s been a regular in for almost 30 years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While Armani and Gucci work on the interiors of their new Dubai hotels, von Furstenberg is focused on decorating 20 rooms and suites in Claridge’s, four of which are scheduled to open next week.

“I’m very much a traveling soul. I have spent so much time in hotels. I know what people who stay in hotels need,” von Furstenberg told the newspaper.

According to the article, von Furstenberg had a hand in everything – from paint to furniture to art – in the new hotel rooms. The von Furstenberg designed rooms will also feature a vanity, traveling trunk, desk and cocktail bar that she designed specifically for the hotel.

Ever the traveler, and with a keen eye for fashion and photography, some of the rooms at Claridge’s will also feature personal photographs that von Furstenberg took during her travels to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

[via Wall Street Journal]

Gucci to launch new hotel in Dubai

As is the case in the fashion world, when one designer makes a statement the others will follow.

Enter: Italian fashion icon Gucci, who will launch its own hotel chain in Dubai, only a few months after the opening of Giorgio Armani’s hotel in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

Lorens Ziller, the managing director for Elisabetta Gucci Hotels says the first ever Gucci hotel will open in Dubai’s Media City by the end of the year. While construction has yet to begin on the hotel, plans are already in place to design the 87-suite hotel with the help of Elisabetta Gucci, daughter of designer Paolo Gucci. The Elisabetta Gucci website also states the hotel will offer 24-hour room service, a cigar club, a spa, fitness center and pool.

According to reports, Gucci also plans hotels in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Oman and China.

Luxury travel and fashion unite inside the Armani Hotel Dubai

Cities often serve as a mecca for fashion trends. From New York City to Milan to Paris, fashion knows no limits when it comes cat-walking down the boulevard. Each new season boasts a new must-have fabric, cut or hemline, but there’s more to fashion than what you wear. While most bank accounts can’t justify the $1,000 gladiator sandals or an Alexander McQueen ostrich feather dress (starting price at around $10,000), many travelers will make a case for spending money on vacations. Thankfully, as more fashion designers are expanding their brands and offerings, the travel industry is reaping the rewards.

The Armani Hotel, built inside the world’s tallest building, gives new meaning to the term ‘high-fashion’. Italian designer Giorgio Armani dug deep into the fashion treasure trove for its new hotel in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and created an experience fit for a fashion icon and his followers. In addition to the eight on-site restaurants, the hotel features an exclusive Armani boutique, an Armani Dolci (candy shop) and an Armani Fiori (flower shop). The hotel also houses the world’s highest mosque, and swimming pool and spa. The 160 rooms in the Armani Hotel Dubai are designed in earth tones and accented in creme colors.

A glimpse at the hotel’s website offers descriptions of the various rooms:

Armani classic: The classic rooms are 70 square meter-bedrooms (approximately 753 square feet) in the center of the tower.
Armani executive: Located on levels 5 and 6 of Burj Khalifa, the rooms are slightly bigger at 85 square meters (914 square feet) and offers views of The Dubai Fountain.
Armani signature: Personally designed by Giorgio Armani, these suites are a spacious 235 square meters (2,529 square feet) and are located on Levels 38 and 39.Armani suites: Located across all floors, Armani Suites range from 70 to 95 square meters (approximately 700- to 1000-square feet) and are located across all the tower wings.
Armani studio: The bedrooms are 45 square meters (484 square feet) located on all floors and next to the elevators.
Armani premier: Located on all floors, the Armani Premiere rooms cover 95 square meter and are designed by Giorgio Armani.
Armani ambassador: These capacious suites, located on levels 5 and 6, are 150 square meters (approximately 1,600 square feet).
Armani Dubai suite: The Armani Dubai Suite is one of its kind with 390 square meters (over 4,000 square feet) of space and elegance and designed by Giorgio Armani.

In a press release at the grand unveiling yesterday Armani said, “Yesterday when I arrived and saw the hotel, I felt really emotional… After five years of working on this project, I finally saw how it all came to life. Working with me is not always easy, I think everyone here would agree because my standards are very high.”

The hotel is a collaboration between Armani and Emaar Properties, but it’s not the last we’ll see of the Armani hotels. Milan, Marrakesh, Paris, New York City, Tokyo and Shanghai are also on the hotel horizon.

So, what’s all this fashion cost? Certainly more than a pair of shoes, but less than a designer dress.

A standard room in the hotel starts at around 4,000 dirhams ($1,089 USD) a night, while the suites ring in around 40,000 dirhams (approximately $10,000 USD). A table at the the hotel’s Prive lounge and nightclub, which is home to the world’s largest LCD screen, will cost at least 3,000 dirhams (approximately $800 USD).

Is it worth it? I’d bet my gladiators on it.