Dubai Creek Tower – the first tower to reach a record-breaking height of 1300 meters. An architectural masterpiece designed to be the tallest man-made structure in the world. Yet six years after construction began, the tower consists only of the foundation. No work has been done above the ground and only a small part of the original master plan for the Dubai Creek has been built. So what has happened? Has this 1300-meter-tall megaproject officially failed? Let’s find out! While the Dubai Creek Tower is already massive on its own, it is part of something even bigger.
The tower is the centerpiece of the Creek Harbour megaproject, which is located on the banks of Dubai Creek, right next to a protected wildlife wetland with more than 450 species of animals. The Creek Harbour megaproject is dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and harmony with the natural environment, using the most modern ecological solutions. The project will be interspersed with green spaces and powered by solar energy to minimize the impact on the environment. Dubai Creek Harbour was started as a major joint project between Dubai Holding and Emaar Properties, which also built the Burj Khalifa, the current world’s tallest skyscraper. The area will be built over the next 20 years and provide space for more than 200,000 residents and 450,000 living and working people. It is set to become the largest pedestrian zone in the world, creating an accessible and sustainable city of the future. But what started as a partnership between Emaar Properties and the state-owned Dubai Holding, became 100% Emaar Properties in the summer of 2022. Emaar Properties bought out Dubai Holding for $2 billion and will now have full control over the development and future profit of 6 million square meters of real estate, roughly the size of 2 New York Central Parks. This shows that Emaar Properties hasn’t abandoned its big plans. And that we may soon see the continuation of the Tower’s construction. When completed, the Creek tower will be the centerpiece of the Harbor and one of the most significant structures ever created. The design is based on the most advanced mathematical, technical and physical methods known today. It is almost impossible to build a super-tall tower in the shape of a desert lily flower. A long, thin flower reminiscent of the traditional Islamic architecture of minarets, an important part of mosques. To achieve this height, the tower is supported by a 110 kilometer array of steel cables that are also used to create visual effects. Together with the special glass facade, the Creek tower will emit light both day and night. And it will be completely self-sufficient with the help of solar energy and water conservation. The self-cleaning façade will use water from a sustainable cooling system. Water will be collected from the creek, solar panels, and hanging gardens. In addition, a shading system and wing doors will help to save even more energy. At the top, an oval bud will house ten observation platforms, including the Pinnacle Room with 360-degree views of the city. Yet of the 200 floors, only 20 will be usable, which means that the tower will not be classified as a skyscraper. The Creek Tower will primarily serve as a lavish art installation and inspiring tourist attraction, testifying to the architectural achievements of our time. While the exact height of the strucure remains a secret, when constructed started 6 years ago, it was hinted that the Creek Tower would be much more than 1 km high. This was because another record-breaking building was expected to reach one kilometer, knocking Dubai’s 828-meter Burj Khalifa out of first place. The Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, construction of which had begun only three years earlier. It may seem nonsensical to chase the world title of the tallest building until you look at the profit that the Burj Khalifa has brought to Dubai. 20 million more visitors to the city and annual revenues equal to the $30 billion they spend every year. Inspiring record-breaking architecture is thus rightly seen as an economic strategy in the Middle East.
Retaining the title of the tallest building in the world is economically and strategically important. The Creek Tower was to be opened at Dubai 2020 Expo and herald a new era, just as the Eiffel Tower did at the Paris World’s Fair in 1889. But in 2018, after the foundation work was completed, everything came to a halt. And the strange thing is that this happened at the same time that the construction of the Jeddah Tower was halted. So currently, both projects have been on hold for many years. Could it be that Dubai is taking its time to see what happens with Jeddah Tower? Especially because they are not in danger of losing their title any time soon. Or is it more likely that the global pandemic and recession has brought this megaproject to an indefinite stop? The Jeddah Tower stopped at 300 meters after it was put on hold due to a political intrigue that saw two key players imprisoned. After a few weeks, they were released from prison and construction resumed. But not for long. Just a few months later, the whole megaproject was halted again due to labor issues with a contractor. COVID pandemic then sealed construction indefinitely. But what about the Dubai Creek Tower? Right before COVID hit, the developers of the tower were about to sign a contract with a Chinese company to continue construction and finish the project. When the pandemic broke out, these construction plans were cancelled. But is there more to this story? The Tower’s slogan “Inspired by the nation, designed for the world” underlines the great architectural ambition for which Dubai has become famous. Contrary to popular belief that Dubai owes its majestic success only to the discovery of oil, it was actually the government’s tax-free policies and laws that allowed foreign investors to buy properties that made Dubai the architectural wonder it is today.
Oil was just a nudge in the right direction that made other investments possible. And until 2018, the UAE was one of the last growing economies to be free of income tax. It was easy to do business thanks to the numerous free tax zones. But since January 2018, everything has changed. The UAE introduced Value Added Tax, and that was just the beginning. Even though the tax rate was modest, it meant that businesses now had to calculate the taxes and worry about the penalties if they didn’t comply with the new laws. And in 2021, the UAE introduced another tax – a corporate tax on company profits. Doing business got even more complicated. But that’s not all. In addition to the tax burden, the UAE must also meet the complex and costly requirements of the UN Agenda 2030. The UAE has been a member of the UN since 1971. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was launched in 2015 at a UN summit in New York and aims to achieve green, sustainable and smart growth that doesn’t harm the climate or the environment. The commitment is to save the planet from destruction, but here’s the trick. The new requirements are set each year not only on the basis of the envisaged timeframe, but also on the basis of new scientific research and recommendations. All this means that the original $1 billion budget for the Dubai Creek Tower is now absolutely insufficient to complete the project under the current circumstances. Another major factor brought about by the pandemic and the global economic crisis is that more and more people have switched to telecommuting, leaving large office buildings empty. Emaar Properties hasn’t sold nearly enough properties, and there’s a massive oversupply of flats and offices in Dubai in general. So it does not seem like the right time to pursue another big business investment that is unlikely to pay off in the current circumstances. Yes, everything has changed for the UAE, from newly introduced corporate taxes, green requirements, and broken supply chains to new human behaviors and tourists’ financial capabilities. Great architecture has always been a witness to time, so it is not surprising that everything our world has experienced globally in recent years is reflected in the Dubai Creek Tower – whose foundations are a hope for a new, glorious future that will hopefully be upon us. Do you think the Tower will ever be completed?