Burj Khalifa's architecture
Best Experiences in Dubai
The Burj Khalifa is instantly recognisable with a profile that resembles a slender gleaming needle piercing the sky. The tallest manmade structure of any kind at 828m in height, the tower has become emblematic of Dubai. Behind its striking façade, it's the ideal example of inspired architecture with a tech-focused approach to design.
The Burj Khalifa is one of the most architecturally and technically advanced buildings in the world, with thoughtful design at every stage.
The Burj Khalifa is instantly recognisable with a profile that resembles a slender gleaming needle piercing the sky. The tallest manmade structure of any kind at 828m in height, the tower has become emblematic of Dubai. But look beyond its stature and you'll discover an array of intricate design elements.
Raised from its roots
For a building so strikingly modern, it might be surprising to learn the design of the Burj Khalifa is rooted firmly in the heritage of Dubai and the region. The stepped spiral plan of the tower itself harks back to traditional Middle Eastern architecture, while the Burj Khalifa’s design motif – interlocking circles radiating out from the tower’s footprint – takes cues from Islamic geometric traditions. This extends to the landscape around the tower, which uses abstracted forms from the building to shape the gardens at its base.
Also, throughout the Burj Khalifa you will find traditional architectural elements carefully incorporated – keep an eye out for the mashrabiya-carved latticework on the ceiling of the 125th floor observation deck.
Stepped design ‘confuses wind’
The Burj Khalifa’s stepped design – the tower features 27 setbacks or tiers spiralling up its height – is not only architecturally elegant, but also plays a vital role in reducing the impact of wind.
As William Baker, designer of the Burj Khalifa's engineering aspects at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, explained in 2007: "The spiralling setbacks on the building are very important from a wind point of view. If you have highly organised vortex shedding, then you get very large forces, and large motions from large forces. We have 24 major setbacks, where the floor plate reconfigures. And every different floor plate has different vortex-shedding behaviour. So the pulses coming off this building are very much confused, at very different rates."
The design was extensively tested in wind tunnels before construction – and as a result, the building’s layout was rotated 120 degrees in order to reduce the impact of the wind. And the Burj Khalifa’s steps also give it another useful feature: plenty of space for terraces and outdoor spaces at regular intervals up its height.
Inspired by a flower
The distinctive three-leafed shape of the Burj Khalifa’s footprint is drawn from the spider lily plant, formally known as hymenocallis. The shape of the flower, a desert plant, inspired world-famous architect Adrian Smith: he abstracted the design from six petals to three, and this forms the basis for much of the design throughout the skyscraper.
The central core remains at the heart of the tower. Right at the top, it emerges to form a finishing spire that measures over 200m in height, cementing Burj Khalifa’s position as the world’s tallest.
The spider lily is also a signature plant throughout the gardens surrounding the Burj Khalifa, along with other slow-growing traditional flora well-suited to Dubai’s environment.
An engineering marvel
The feats of engineering achieved with the Burj Khalifa’s construction are almost more impressive than its striking design. From the use of the six-degree temperature difference between the top and bottom of the tower to improve its cooling efficiency, to the system for collecting condensation and waste water throughout the tower for use in irrigation, there are innovations in every aspect of the building’s design and operation. This even extends to the concrete used in construction – because of the Burj Khalifa’s height and hot Dubai summers, a bespoke concrete mix incorporating ice had to be created.
You can learn more about the achievements of the builders and designers behind the Burj Khalifa on a trip to the tower’s observation decks – by far the best way to appreciate the design and architecture of the world’s tallest building.
Admire the best Burj Khalifa views from these top restaurants or learn about Dubai's other architectural highlights.
Dubai Corporation of Tourism & Commerce Marketing