April 18, 2011

Struth! Talk About Tower Envy

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says plans by the Saudi Arabian royal family to build an office, hotel and shopping tower that will soar 1.6km high (one mile) into the sky are being greeted by anything but enthusiasm.

Newspaper columnists, talk-back radio callers and environmentalists world-wide are describing it as anything from "a thrusting phallic symbol," to "hair-brained," "a scary disaster waiting to happen," and "delusions of grandeur."

The tower will be the centrepiece of a new city outside the Red Sea port of Jeddah, will be almost twice as high as the current highest tower, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, will take 12-minutes to reach the top by lift, and will cost in the vicinity of $40 billion.

Critics are saying that with plenty of room to expand cities horizontally – as opposed to places like Hong Kong – Saudi Arabia has no need for such a tower, which they also say will attract "lunatic terrorist elements" who'll attempt to blow it up, fly a plane into it, set fire to it, or cripple power supplies and trap thousands inside.

Others ask how much it will cost to pump water to the top floors for toilets and restaurants, how would people be expected to walk down 5000 steps in the event of a major power failure, and how would emergency services get to the top 330th floor in under 15-minutes to fight a fire… if at all if there is a major power failure?

Or how do you air-condition the top floors that will heat up like an oven in the middle of the day, and cool down to near-freezing at night?

Others simply consider the idea of standing at a window and looking out from 1.6km in the air "all just too scary," while there are those thinking more positively about joining the Mile High Club in the hotel that's planned for the top floor.

And the influential Architects Journal summed up: "The race to build the highest skyscraper is quite futile… these buildings are a symbol of an old-fashioned way of thinking."

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