An abundance of prospective projects are lined up to be the world’s tallest, including Nakheel Tower in the Middle East.

While Nakheel Tower in Dubai is officially on hold, there is still some hope for the project. It was planned to stretch at least one kilometre high, with speculation it could actually reach 1,400 metres tall.

While advancements in structural engineering and high-strength concrete technology continue to support greater building heights and allow architects and developers to dream bigger, the world still awaits the first building to break the one kilometre mark.

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai currently holds the title for the world’s tallest building, rising 828 metres. This title, however, may be transferred early next year to Sky City, a 838-metre, prefabricated skyscraper in Changsha, China by Broad Sustainable Building.

Nakheel Tower

Nakheel Tower – one kilometre ambition on hold

To date, there have been many contenders for the title of tallest building. According to the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), there are currently visions for 23 skyscrapers reaching 1,000-metre-plus heights. The most ambitious project dates back to 1995, when Japan proposed a 4,000 metre mixed use skyscraper that would operate as an entire city with the ability to house up to 1,000,000 inhabitants.  That vision was inspired by Mount Fuji and the building would have an immense base.

Today, the most feasible skyscraper slated for completion remains Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill’s Kingdom Tower.  This one-kilometre mixed-use skyscraper in Saudi Arabia is set to be finished in 2019.

Nakheel Tower was actually proposed 10 years ago but was officially put on hold in December 2009 due to the effects of the Global Financial Crisis, which hit a year earlier.

“The mixed use development was planned to be located in the heart of New Dubai and include the world’s tallest building, a harbour, cultural podium and two residential districts,” Woods Bagot said of the project.

Matthew Gaal, a former senior associate at Woods Bagot Australia, was the project architect for Nakheel Tower. His involvement in the project got him shortlisted for Young Architect of the Year – Middle East.

“The project is officially on hold,” Gaal said of the ambitious plan. “Over 80 per cent of the foundations have been poured and it has been noted by the CTBUH as the tallest building ever to start construction.”

Additionally, the CTBUH reports there are currently 234 skyscrapers on hold or never completed with Nakheel Tower at the top of the list, including the 700-metre India Tower in Mumbai and the 612-metre Russia Tower in Moscow.

The decision to shut down construction on Nakheel Tower was not an easy one to make.

“We spent three years designing and documenting the building, so it was very disappointing to have it go on hold,” Gaal said. “There are many challenges – I can’t comment from a developer’s perspective but from the architects’ side you need to find another project to transfer the team members onto.”

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world

The project was estimated to take 10 years to complete, with Gaal describing the design team as “futurists” who needed to consider an array of factors, including lifting technology and materials.

“We were designing to world’s best practice when it came to all aspects of the design,” he said. “We would take building codes and regulations from all over the world and design to what would be the optimum solution. In the case of ESD (environmentally sustainable design), we incorporated a lot of passive environmental initiatives into the building that were the right and responsible thing to do.”

“Material selection was a big one, with the external cladding being made from titanium – a material that would be 100% recyclable. High performance glass specifications were another area where we spent a lot of research and development.”

Woods Bagot confirmed the skyscraper would be LEED certified and would include sky villages, black water treatment, storm water harvesting, reuse of fire test water, solar panels, wind turbines and high-voltage power distribution.

Gaal also believes the design of the Nakheel Tower stands apart from conventional high skyscraper design thanks to its form which he describes as an “extrusion all the way up.”

“Most tall buildings taper as they get taller to mitigate the effects of the wind on the building,” he said. “We did taper the building, but from the inside out, maintaining large floor plates high up in the building where they are of the most building.”

As skyscrapers continue to vie for great heights, The CTBUH recently reported on “Vanity Height,” in which there is unusable space at the top of the building. Nakheel’s designers appear keen to utilse as much of the building’s space as possible.

“The Burj Khalifa has a spire essentially that is 29 per cent of its overall height – space that is not utilised,” Gaal said. “Nakheel Tower had its highest floor at the one kilometre mark and was close to 1,500 metres square in size. The spire or crown atop that only equated to around 10 per cent. In the line-up posted by the CTBUH (referring to the report), this is one of the least vain!”

So does Nakheel Tower still have a place in Dubai’s skyline?

“We are hopeful that it will go ahead,” Gaal said.

With market observations predicting a global boom in high rise multi-residential construction, it will be interesting to see if Dubai will indeed hand over its world’s tallest title to China or Saudi Arabia or if Nakheel Tower can finish what it begun – the quest to break the one kilometre mark.