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The Burj Khalifa and regime insecurity

The building formerly known as the Burj Dubai -- at 2,717 feet, easily the world's tallest skyscraper -- opened today, and as if to explicitly acknowledge the monumental hubris surrounding the occasion, Dubai's leaders rechristened the building for Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, leader of Abu Dhabi and financial savior to his economically ailing neighbor.

The obvious comparison here is to the Tower of Babel, which Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne notes in his article today on the Dubai skyscraper's opening. What popped into my mind, however, while reading that the building is still largely unoccupied and may actually put more downward pressure on Dubai real estate prices, is another building -- this one in North Korea -- symbolizing the kind of insecurity that motivates some regimes to build what eventually become monuments to past delusion. Behold, Pyongyang's Ryugyong Hotel:

Ryugyonghotel

The 105-story hotel has been under construction since the heady economic days (by North Korean standards) of 1987, and there are no signs that it will ever open. Some construction resumed in 2008, although according to a website devoted to providing updates on the building, the work being done now is meant to mitigate the hulking edifice's blight on the Pyongyang skyline.

This is not to say Dubai's woeful economic fortunes mean it could become the next hermit kingdom or that the Burj Khalifa faces Ryugyong Hotel's fate of suspended animation (the Dubai building is at least functional). But both stratospheric structures seem to prove an arguable truth: that government insecurity correlates positively to skyscraper height.

-- Paul Thornton

Photo credit: Kyodo

 

Comments () | Archives (10)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Noor

LAME ARTICLE DUBAI HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH NORTH KOREA AND IT WAS BUILT IN THE HEIGHT OF THE REAL ESTATE BOOM ...

v

Wat crap ? How the hell do you know the building is not completely bought out. Obviously, duh, it is unoccupied because it opened last evening. Paul, have you ever even seen dubai or know its customs. Stop playing Bush's your uncle and do some serious reviews.

Abdullah bin Muhammad Ar-Rashid

I understand how the comparison with the abandoned hotel in N. Korea works, and yes, that is entirely possible, and maybe seeing the recent economic downturn, likely. But I don't understand how you equate that with regime insecurity. Dubai has been doing things which are, without a doubt in excess. They have been doing this for years now, recall the man-made islands for one thing, and the Burj has been in work for some 5 years. It's not a secret that they are pushing economic ventures to reduce reliance on the oil industry should it fail eventually. An attempt to strengthen the economic foundation isn't the same thing as political insecurity. It's a possibility but the U.A.E. does have a more stable government than certain others in the region, making it unlikely.

Mitchell Young

Dubai's leaders *rechristened* the building for Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Rechristened?

Verballistic

I too consider the Burj in Dubai a case of architectural "overkill", but resist any comparison to North Korea, because in the "people's paradise" of Kim Jong-Il. overkill usually involves PEOPLE actually GETTING KILLED!!

T

This is seriously the lamest piece of analysis I have ever read. So, if you are not a Western government, and dare to build a tall building, then you are insecure. So lame..

Bin Safi

"But both stratospheric structures seem to prove an arguable truth: that government insecurity correlates positively to skyscraper height."

What kind of twisted logic is that?
My six year-old Niece could do much better...


Peace, Love & Respect.

jonagold

There are much more recent photos taken by a Westerner living in Pyongyang on www.flickr.com/photos/Kernbeisser (search Ryugyong in his photostream). The exterior is almost completely encased in glass, and supposedly interior work is happening as well.

Johnny Limm

Everytime I see a picture of North Korea, my heart goes out to the people who are suffering everyday in North Korea. I hope that one day, the people of North Korea will be liberated. The Northern Koreans are constantly living in terror because their ruthless dictator Kim Jong Il rules that country with an iron fist. I wish one day that justice will prevail on the Korean Penninsula.

Gordon Potik

The Dubai tower.
Who built this tower? What erector set was used? This is a prime example of consumption at its best. A building is built, the facility is opened, and nobody can afford to move in. Great Planning.
As usual the rich didn’t have enough money to complete the project and needed some form of bailout at the cost of the common folk. But let us not feel sorry. At least we have a monument to Man not Woman but Man the greatest Phallac symbol know to MAN.


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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.



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