Burj Khalifa, the newest tallest building on the planet, officially opened today. Located in Dubai, UAE, it stands a monumental 2717 feet tall -- over half a mile. From its summit, one can see for sixty miles in any direction. (As part of the opening festivities, skydivers leaped from the top, with no reports of unopened parachutes or parasails.)
One of its fundamental design principles fascinates me -- in cross section the building is composed of three lobes, in essence a triangle rather than the usual square cross section of other super-skyscrapers (including the twin towers of the former World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City). As any geometry student knows, a triangle is the simplest and strongest structure which one can create with straight lines. This is why everything from buildings to bridges has diagonal beams connecting the opposite corners of otherwise square or rectangular components, inducing the reinforcing strength of the triangle.
A perverse but nonetheless fascinating question occurs to me -- what would world reaction be if, as happened to the WTC, the new Dubai tower were attacked by a hijacked aircraft? It is entirely conceivable, given the sectarian differences within Islam. If a copycat attack might be directed at the Burj Khalifa, would the design structure be more resistant to collapse, and would (as happened initially until the Bush administration blew it) the countries of the world express universal sympathy with the victim nation, and universal condemnation of the perpetrators? Just wondering, I have no answer.
I confess to a lingering affection for the long-since eclipsed edifice which was, when I was a child, the world's tallest -- the Empire State Building. At a mere 1454 feet in height, it is now dwarfed by other, newer skyscrapers. Yet it retains its charm. Several movie versions of King Kong have scaled its vertical sides. It has been named one of the seven architectural wonders of the modern world. I've never had the pleasure of standing on its observation deck, as I have several times atop the WTC before its demise -- but I hope someday to do so. On the other hand, next time I happen to be in the Middle East .......