Score One for Practical Acrophobia

I was reading today about how the world’s tallest tower is ninety percent unoccupied. The Wikipedia article for the Burj Khalifa lists its current world records:

Current records

  • Tallest skyscraper to top of spire: 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously Taipei 101 – 509.2 m/1,671 ft)
  • Tallest structure ever built: 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously Warsaw radio mast – 646.38 m/2,121 ft)
  • Tallest extant structure: 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously KVLY-TV mast – 628.8 m/2,063 ft)
  • Tallest freestanding structure: 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously CN Tower – 553.3 m/1,815 ft)
  • Building with most floors: 160 (previously Willis Tower – 108)[20]
  • Building with highest occupied floor in the world: 160th floor[21]
  • World’s highest elevator installation, situated inside a rod at the very top of the building[22][23]
  • World’s fastest elevators at speed of 64 km/h (40 mph) or 18 m/s (59 ft/s)[23] (previously Taipei 101 – 16.83 m/s)
  • Highest vertical concrete pumping (for a building): 606 m (1,988 ft)[24] (previously Taipei 101 – 449.2 m/1,474 ft)
  • The first world’s tallest structure in history to include residential space[25]
  • Highest outdoor observation deck in the world (124th floor) at 452 m (1,483 ft)[26][27]
  • World’s highest mosque (located on the 158th floor)[28][29]
  • World’s highest installation of an aluminium and glass facade, at a height of 512 m (1,680 ft)[30]
  • World’s highest swimming pool (76th floor)[28]
  • World’s highest nightclub (144th floor).[31]
  • World’s highest restaurant, At.mosphere, located on 122nd floor at the height of 442 m (1,450 ft). (Previously the world’s highest restaurant was 360, at a height of 350 m (1,148 ft) in CN Tower).[32][33]
  • World’s highest New Year fireworks display.[34

For me, the building is beyond impressive: it is terrifying. I am deathly afraid of heights. If you want a really good way to push me over the edge in every sense of the expression, take me up to the top floor and throw me off. I suppose the Burj Khalifa would be a rather prestigious place to live, although even if heights did not bother me, the tenth elevator ride back to my apartment because I finally realized what I forgot would get tedious.

Back to the main issue: this tower is ninety percent unoccupied. Why do people keep building towers that are so tall? Am I supposed to comment on the impotence of phallic one upsmanship? Also, when is the Burj Khalifa going to come down, and how? Usually if you get something out, you also have to think of how you are going to put it away. It appears that no one is playing with this thing that Dubai has gotten out, but they will have to decide whether they want to put it away—after all, they paid for it.

This building is huge. We live on earth, not Coruscant or Trantor (HUGE points if you can identify both worlds without looking them up). Both Coruscant and Trantor are capitals of interstellar empires, and they can command the resources of thousands of worlds to maintain themselves. On such imperial city-planets, the Burj Khalifa might house members of the lower middle-class. On earth, the Burj stands ninety percent unoccupied on the edge of the desert. What is this building actually good for?

Now, many buildings in the world have been the tallest: Petronas Towers in Kuala Lampur, Taipei 101 in I forget which city, the Empire State Building in New York City, and even the Eiffel Tower in Paris at one point was the world’s tallest. Just because they used to be the tallest does not mean that everyone moved to the new “tallest building in the world” when it went up, and of course, they are still tall. As I understand it, people are still using all the buildings I named. Although I do not understand the value of really, really tall buildings, I know that they have one.

In the end, I suppose I think two things:

  • If I want to buy something and I cannot measure its value in a meaningful number of cans of Coca Cola (tens of thousands being the upper limit here), I will have to consider the benefits of not buying it.
  • If you are my friend and you want me to come visit you, do not even think of inviting me to the Burj Khalifa.
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