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The Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building, officially opens for business today. [cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/04/burj.art.jpg caption =" The Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building, is opening for business this week."]
Stretching over half a mile high, the skyscraper literally towers above the previous record holder, Taiwan’s 508 meter tall Taipei 101.
The 818 meter tall spike of steel and glass now piercing the skyline is the centerpiece of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s plans to transform Dubai into the Middle East’s premier business hub.
Dubai’s extraordinary building boom has rarely been out of the headlines in recent years as man-made islands, indoor ski slopes and shopping malls have all been created on an epic scale.
But despite criticisms over migrant worker conditions and environmental issues which have dogged construction the Burj Dubai is undoubtedly an extraordinary feat of engineering.
The building’s architects, Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, describe the Burj as "a bold global icon that will serve as a model for future urban centers."
Its 160-plus storeys experience different climatic conditions – the top of the building is ten degrees Celsius cooler than the bottom.
But the chilly economic conditions sweeping through Dubai – last month the emirate had to accept a $10 billion bail out from its neighbor Abu Dhabi – have put a sizable dent in Dubai's ambitions.
Far from serving as a model for future urban development – as its architects claim – will the Burj Dubai instead be remembered as a towering monument to the excess of the decade just passed?
Whatever it’s cultural significance, its place in construction history seems assured as engineers look to apply the lessons learnt in building the Burj Dubai to build even higher.
So how high can buildings get? And how high do we really want or need to go? Is it an icon or an eyesore? We would like to hear your views on Dubai’s new skyscraper. Post your comments below.