Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Technical Tours, CTBUH 8th World Congress

4 March 2008, Dubai

Burj Dubai
Emirates Towers
Index Tower
Burj Al Arab
Palm Jumeirah

Members of the Congress Organizing Committee had personally organized tours to experience five seminal projects in Dubai, either built or under construction. These technical tours became one of the highlights of the three days, as the congress teleported itself from the plenary hall to building sites around the city.

Tour 1: Burj Dubai. View looking up.
      The Burj Dubai, understandably given the Plenary Session on the project we had witnessed that morning, was perhaps the most popular of the five technical tours, certainly judging by the numbers who undertook it. Over 300 delegates boarded coaches at the congress venue and, guests of the developer Emaar, were escorted down Sheikh Zayed Road to the Downtown Dubai development, with the Burj Dubai as the jewel in the crown. Already standing at 600+ meters with the steel spire starting to emerge above the 150 floors of concrete, though it technically will not be crowned ‘The Tallest Building in the World’ until fully complete and occupied, delegates experienced it as the largest free-standing structure in the world. The technical tour included an overview of the entire 17 million square feet Downtown Dubai development, embracing several tall buildings as well as the Dubai Mall and Emaar’s marketing suite, with its massive model of the Burj - a definite highlight of the trip.


Moving back in time eight years, other delegates visited the tall building project that had first put Dubai on the map – the twin Emirates Towers standing tall and proud at the foot of Sheikh Zayed road. Still looking in pristine condition, delegates were treated to inside information on the project from original architect Hazel Wong and colleagues at the NORR group, and a detailed tour of the hotel tower (the other tower accommodates office function) including the busy lobby which functions as one of the main business-meeting spaces in the city, the conference hub, the mid level facilities space, and the high-level restaurant, sat below the sloping rooftop.
Tour 1: Burj Dubai. View from top of tower looking at Sheikh Zayed Road with Index Tower.
Donning hard hats and luminous site jackets provided by hosts Multiplex, other delegates boarded the construction hoist for an unforgettable ride up Norman Foster’s first tall building project in Dubai – the Index Tower, then at about the fiftieth of an envisaged eighty floors.

A mixed-use skyscraper accommodating 47 floors of residential over 25 floors of office, delegates got to experience the double-height, high-level sky lobby separating the two functions, and the numerous sustainable features that were already beginning to take shape.

Tour 2: Emirates Towers. Office Tower.   Tour 3: Index Tower under construction.   Tour 4: Burj Al Arab. Night view.
For many people the Burj Al Arab tower is the very essence of Dubai – bold, brazen and literally dripping with opulence. The subject of continued worldwide attention, this 7-star hotel is now the exclusive domain of those fortunate enough to be able to afford an overnight’s stay, or to those who book a long time in advance to eat at the high-level restaurant, cantilevering out over the Arabian Gulf. After experiencing the building from the events lawn of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel at the Welcome Reception the evening before, those delegates who undertook the personal technical tour courtesy of the architects, WS Atkins, were treated to a no-holds- barred experience of the building, from the luxurious lobby with its luminous fish-tanks and shooting fountains, to some of the incredibly-sumptuous hotel suites and recreational spaces.
Tour 5: Palm Jumeirah. Aerial view.
The final tour on offer gave a different-scale experience. Courtesy of the developer Nakheel, a hundred delegates visited the Nakheel sales centre where they boarded boats to travel out into the Arabian Gulf to visit the vast reclamation project that is the Palm Jumeirah. Built in the shape of a palm tree out in the Gulf, and still a long way from completion, delegates got to see not only the vast infrastructure side of the project but also the private beach-lined residences and other buildings that were in various states of construction and occupation.