Blaine Brownell, in the New York Times, marks the impending opening for occupancy of the new World’s Tallest Building and compares its strutural design and purposes with some of its predecessors.
Come April, the first tenants may finally be able to move into Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, now the tallest building in the world. Despite a series of setbacks since its ostensible opening two months ago, including the closing of the observation deck, the tower has already prompted an exuberant proliferation of record-breaking statistics: it soars more than half a mile high, stands twice the height of the Empire State Building, boasts views that reach 60 miles, etc. But all the hoopla misses two other symbolic milestones that should enliven the history books. Namely, the Burj Khalifa is primarily residential and its structural frame is reinforced concrete.
Why are these two facts so important? The pursuit of maximum altitude is a major technological undertaking, requiring extraordinary economic investment, significant innovations in materials and a high tolerance for risk; as we survey the monuments of architectural history, tall structures provide remarkable insights about the aspirations of the societies that created them.
Think back to the Middle Ages. The soaring cathedrals of Notre-Dame de Paris and Chartres were awe-inspiring landmarks in stone. Gothic churches maximized the structural capacity of available materials, transforming heavy rock into delicate, lofted skeletons enclosing voluminous spaces. Pilgrims to these edifices would no doubt have been awed by their apparent defiance of gravity, and moved by the breathtaking spiritual power conveyed by the churches’ vast, light-pierced interiors.
Under construction from 1192 to 1311, Lincoln Cathedral in England was considered the first building to exceed the height of the Great Pyramid at Giza. After the partial destruction of the previous cathedral by an earthquake in 1185, the bishop of Lincoln, St. Hugh, had ordered a colossal rebuilding of the structure in local oolitic limestone, making full use of recent engineering innovations like flying buttresses and pointed arches.
The cathedral’s master builder also experimented heavily with ribbed vaulting; so-called crazy vaults were extended upward like delicate palm fronds at a dizzying height. This architecture was perfectly matched to its use, with stone transfigured into filigree that enclosed a sublime sanctuary. It was the world’s tallest building for two and a half centuries, until its central spire collapsed in 1549.
Now jump to the threshold of the 20th century. With the complementary technological developments of the steel frame and elevator, the ability to stack floor plates at heights inconceivable in stone constituted an explosive return on land investment.
For the first time, the tallest buildings in town were no longer churches. The skyscrapers that shot up in Chicago and New York were “cathedrals of commerce,” abounding in office space and brimming with enterprising workers.
The Empire State Building was constructed at a breakneck pace — 410 days — in order to beat the Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street for the title of tallest building in the world. When the skyscraper opened in 1931, it was a sensational and unprecedented marriage of steel and commerce, and it would retain its title as tallest for four decades. Its two million square feet of office space still accommodate about 21,000 employees working for 1,000 companies; the tower has its own ZIP code.
So what of the marvel recently constructed in the Middle East?
From a technological standpoint, it’s profoundly impressive that a reinforced concrete frame has outperformed the steel of Taipei 101 — the previous record holder for height — by 1,050 feet. This achievement suggests a new era in structural engineering: the compressive strength of concrete has tripled in the last four decades, allowing concrete structures to be thinner, lighter and far, far taller.
Also notable is the fact that the world’s tallest building is dedicated entirely to opulent residences and various retail, entertainment and commercial functions. The Burj Khalifa amounts to a kind of vertical city for the affluent.
Al-Mabhouh approaches his room, a couple of tennis players just behind him.
Spite and malice time.
What do you do when a foreign intelligence service breezes into your capital, takes out a Hamas arms procurer, and disappears, leaving you with egg all over your face? If you are the security service of Dubai, you leak as many of the after the fact details of identities and tradecraft as you can to the international press. If you can’t stop them and you can’t catch them, at least, you can spill everything you know.
The Daily Mail, as the result, is able to publish the answers to the game of Clue being played by an amused international audience.
The hit squad behind the assassination of a Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel tried to make his death look like an accident by electrocuting him with a bedside lamp.
Police sources said the killers, who used fake British passports, tried to ‘induce the effects of a heart attack’ before smothering Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh with a pillow in his room.
It is understood that the lamp was taken apart and the wiring attached to a device that pulsed electricity into his body. ...
[T]he fake British passports used by the killers had been secretly copied by Tel Aviv airport immigration officials.
The Israeli ambassador to London has been accused of ‘stonewalling’ all attempts to find out how the killers had the passports.
But the Foreign Office has been told that all six of the genuine passport holders – all residents in Israel – had their documents briefly taken away at the airport during routine checks.
The London Times speculates that Meir Dagan’s job as head of Mossad may be in jeopardy as the result of the indignation of Western governments over the forged passports.
All the publicity is doubtless inconvenient, and Mossad will inevitably be obliged to lie low for a bit, avoiding the kind of Black Operations that would fuel the continuation of the Shocked, Shocked! meme, but in the long run a reputation for ruthlessness combined with competence, daring, and efficiency will not really do the state of Israel’s intelligence service much harm.
Paul Mirengoff, at Power Line, mocks the politically correct Pecksniffery on the part of certain Euopean powers about passports and the mysterious demise of Hamas weapons-runner Mahmoud-al-Mabhouh in Dubai at the hands of person or persons unknown.
Great Britain is unhappy that six of the 11 individuals thought to be part of the Mossad (or whomever) team used fake British passports bearing the names of Israeli citizens. Prime Minister Gordon Brown sniffed that “the British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care.” However, I’m confident that if the agents had possessed real British passports, they would have held them carefully.
The [Washington] Post also reports that Israeli citizens whose names appeared on the fake passports were “shocked to find themselves mentioned in the material released by the Dubai police.” No doubt. Israel’s position, though, is that “if there is concern about identity theft, those involved should consult a lawyer.” Always good advice.
But passport fraud and identity theft hardly exhaust the ways in which the slaying of Mabhouh affronts modern sensibilities. For example, the photos of the 11 suspects raise questions about the diversity of the team Mossad (or whomever) assembled. It includes only one woman (an attractive blond,naturally) and looks to be short on people of color.
There is also no indication that the team advised Mabhouh of his rights or offered him a chance to exculpate himself before he was killed. Indeed, from all that appears, no lawyer was present.
Finally, what about the carbon footprint of the operation? Did the team travel to Dubai in an energy efficient way? And how much electricity did they use once they arrived? Some reports say they used electricity to stun Mabhouh before killing him. Couldn’t he have been executed in a more energy efficient way?
A certain amount of nastiness is inevitable in today’s world. But this doesn’t mean that protocol, equal opportunity, and principles of good environmental stewardship should fall by the wayside.
The Jerusalem Post is defiantly sarcastic in its response to indignation over the presumptive Mossad use of forged passports.
The pigheaded refusal to acknowledge that sometimes the ends justify the means reflects Europe’s moral impoverishment.
Dahu Khalfan Tamim now has a world-class reputation for detective work. The head of the Dubai police swiftly determined that Hamas’s Mahmoud Mabhouh did not die of natural causes at the five-star Bustan Rotana Hotel on Jan. 20. He was assassinated.
Let’s for the sake of argument grant that Israel did away with Mabhouh; that he was not killed by Iran or over some intra-Palestinian dispute, and that clues pointing to Israeli culpability are genuine.
Mabhouh certainly deserved to be assassinated by Israel. Hamas declared war on Israel. And he co-founded its military wing and was personally involved in the (separate) 1989 killings of IDF soldiers Ilan Sa’adon and Avi Sasportas.
Mabhouh was a key link in the unlawful syndicate which delivers Iranian weapons to Gaza. He was apparently tasked with importing an arsenal that would make life hellish for Israelis living in metropolitan Tel Aviv. He was, perhaps, Hamas’s equivalent to Hizbullah’s Imad Mughniyeh, whose car blew up in Damascus two years ago.
You can tell a great deal about the moral compass and political leanings of a society by observing its reaction to the Mabhouh liquidation.
There is unease in Europe because the purported assassins identified by Dubai were travelling under forged French, German, Irish and British passports; and identities of Israelis with dual-citizenship were utilized.
Even The Times of London, whose editorial page has been sympathetic toward Israel, expressed chagrin over the affair, saying this country had shown poor regard for the “future security of British passport holders overseas.” Frankly, there is little reason to think that the tradecraft employed in this assassination – which we will not second guess at this stage – jeopardizes anyone.
Actually, what troubles us is the question of whose passport Mabhouh was traveling under and why he was allowed to enter neutral Dubai on gun-running business.
Of course, that’s not how the British see it. The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen warned that if Israel had used British passports for “nefarious” purposes – meaning sending Mabhouh to his Maker – Bowen expected, or would it be more accurate to say, hoped for, “a crisis” in relations betweenLondon and Jerusalem.
The Guardian quoted a Foreign Office mandarin as gloating: “Relations were in the freezer before this. They are in the deep freeze now.” The paper then grumbled about the British government’s “supine” response to the assassination, editorializing against the government’s proposal to lift the threat of lawfare. The Guardian wants visiting Israeli ministers to continue to worry about facing Palestinian-inspired “war crimes” charges.
With the British media delighting in the assassination-passport kerfuffle – a Daily Mail headline screamed: “Dragged into a Mossad murder plot” – Menzies Campell, a routinely anti-Israel elder of the Liberal Democrats, declared that “Israel has some explaining to do.”
An anyway beleaguered Prime Minister Gordon Brown intoned: “We have got to carry out a full investigation into this. The British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care.” Sentiments echoed by Opposition Leader David Cameron. ...
Perhaps the shrill reaction in some (though certainly not all) British quarters is not rooted purely in anti-Israelism. Chances are that at least parts of the British intelligentsia and media would have reacted similarly if the man in that hotel room had been Osama bin Laden… or Adolf Eichmann.
One has to admire especially the delightfullly humorous, cat-ate-the-canary “Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Israel did away with Mabhouh” line. I bet that champagne corks are popping still in secluded rest and recreation facilities used by Mossad operatives obliged by circumstances to remain in hiding and out of the public eye.
Of course, the Jerusalem Post is perfectly correct. The British and European press ought to be editorializing piously about how naughty people who traffic in weapons used to attack innocent civilians need to expect to come to premature ends at the hands of persons unknown, instead of striking poses of feigned indignation over the profaned sanctity of travel identification documents.
That Skull and Bones balloting box was not actually sold. Apparently, Christie’s withdrew it from the sale late last month, IvyGate reports, after receiving a mysterious “title claim.” The Russell Trust has plenty of lawyers.
Hot Air (one of the most important conservative blogs) has been sold to Salem Communications. Congratulations and good luck.
As part of the Carnival celebration, preceding the beginning of Lent, in the Spanish village of Laza, “Peliqueiros” or ancient tax collectors, are portrayed wearing warning cowbells and prepared to beat the villagers with sticks.39 Carnival photos.
Stratfor: Tradecraft in Dubai Assassination
The murder was straight out of a cheap spy thriller. At least 11 professional assassins, some wearing wigs and fake beards, tracked a senior Hamas official to his Dubai hotel in January and killed him with cold precision, fleeing the country afterward on European passports, the Dubai police say.
The Telegraph quoted the Irish government denying the legitimacy of several supposedly Irish passports, and provided details of the assassination.
Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior figure in the military wing of Hamas, was found dead in a hotel room on Jan 20. According to one report he was killed by a female assassin who entered his room by posing as a member of hotel staff, injected him with a drug that induced a heart attack and hung a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.
But other officers said he was strangled, probably after receiving an electric shock.
Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, blamed Israel’s Mossad intelligence service for the killing.
It seems that the late al-Mabhouh played a key role in the smuggling of Iranian rockets to Gaza.
Memri quotes an article in the Syrian government daily Teshreen, in which the former Syrian information minister Dr. Mahdi Dakhlallah asks some of the right questions.
In the early 60s, if a person took a taxi in Kuwait or in one of the tiny Gulf states, he would hear on the radio a Syrian, Lebanese, or Egyptian song. Today, if one takes a taxi in Damascus, Cairo, or Beirut, he will hear a song from the Gulf [states]. How did this come about? ...
Why has the Arab cultural and media [primacy] passed from the Nile, Syria, and Mesopotamia to the tiny Gulf states?
Why are books published in 50,000 copies in Kuwait, but in [only] 3,000 copies in Damascus?
Why are state-of-the-art satellite stations being set up in Qatar and Dubai, but not in Beirut, Damascus, or Cairo?
Why is the city planning in the Gulf states perfect, while Beirut, Damascus, and Cairo look like large villages or regions that are chaotic and far from perfect?
Why are the streets of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Manama sparkling clean despite the water shortage, while in the streets and on the pavements of Beirut, Damascus, and Cairo one can find anything but hygiene? ...
Why have the Gulf states managed to adapt themselves to the technological and social reality of modern times, while at the same time preserving their traditional Arab culture (e.g. dress), while Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt have adopted only trousers, shirts, and ties? ...
I believe that our problem – whether in Syria, Lebanon, or Egypt – is that we have forfeited the wisdom of desert nomads, without having caught up with the rational and modern ways of the West.”
Syria and Egypt became National Socialist dictatorships, devoted to militarism and a futile quest for grandeur with dirigist, and therefore stagnant, economies. Syria destroyed Lebanon with help from Iran.
The rulers of the Gulf States devoted themselves to falconry, coursing, and hedonism, presiding over more open economies largely operated by guest workers.
The road to Progress seems everywhere to lead through the Palace of Consumerist Pleasure. Militarist statism does not make you rich, happy, or wise.
ArabianBusiness.com boasts that Dubai is in the process of replacing London and New York as world capital of the financial industry.
Dubai is picking up the mantle of the financial capital of the world, as global banking sectors London and New York continue to fade on the back of the global credit crises.
The new mantra in New York and London is “Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai or goodbye”, as job losses mount in both cities while opportunities in the east continue to rise.
Lehman Brothers on Tuesday became the latest investment bank moving one of its most senior positions to the UAE. Philip Lynch, the bank’s co-head of equities for Europe and the Middle East, will be relocating to Dubai after serving more than two decades in London.
The US investment bank, which has axed over 6,000 staff in the last nine months, said the move was aimed at serving the growing needs of clients in the Gulf region and the wider Middle East.
Lynch will find himself in good company. Barclays last month dispatched Roger Jenkins, one of London’s highest-paid bankers, to the emirate as chairman of investment banking and investment management.
Earlier in May Citigroup, which has so far cut 1,500 jobs because of the global credit crisis, announced it would send Alberto Verme, co-head of global investment banking from London to Dubai. ...
The relocation of roles from London and New York to Dubai, and to a lesser extent Mumbai and Shanghai, reflects the reshaping of global opportunities for investment banks.
With a surge in oil revenue, rapidly rising infrastructure needs, and the emergence of sovereign wealth funds at the head of M&A activity, the Middle East and Asia have become crucial for global investment banks looking to remain profitable.
The Middle East’s largest, this 400 meter long 20 meter high billboard on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, is promoting a development project named “The Lagoons” to more than 250,000 motorists passing by daily.