Project – Burj Khalifa
Landscape Architect: SWA Group
Location – Dubai, UAE
Completed – 2011
Area – 11 Hectares
Image Credits – Tom Fox
The Burj Khalifa landscape celebrates a new world center. Using materials and design elements derived from context—the green oasis, the regal palms, the nature-based imagery of Islamic tradition—the landscape establishes spaces that are both grand and intimate, hard and soft, interconnected and individual. From the Tower Park that frames the world’s tallest tower to the grand Emaar Boulevard that rivals the world’s most recognized streets, the landscape of downtown Burj Khalifa welcomes the visitor into a new urban destination that is green, shaded, and filled with delight.
Playing on the metaphor of “A Tower in a Park,” the shaded landscape of the Tower Park creates a compelling oasis of green, with distinct areas to serve the tower’s hotel, residential, spa and corporate office areas. The visitor begins at the main arrival court at the base of the tower, where the “prow” of the building intersects a grand circular court—a “water room” defined by fountains, palms and park trees. From here, entry roads lead through the park-like landscape to separate hotel and residential arrival courts. Vehicular circulation spirals down to garage level, while flowering trees and seasonal plantings, fountains, and distinct paving patterns establish a strong sense of place for each court.
On the lake side, the Grand Terrace celebrates the scale and importance of the tower with a series of large reflecting pools that cascade from upper terraces to the lake itself. Comfortable walkways define the infinity-edge pools and invite a leisurely walk. More direct walkways lead to the same connections, offering a variety of pedestrian routes to the Khalifa mall, Island Park, residential towers and hotels, and promenades that border the entire edge of the lake.
These outdoor spaces create a front door to the tower, serving the various uses and reflecting the building’s unique forms. In particular, the plaza that encircles the tower expresses the key imagery of the hymenocallis, or spider lily, through an iterative pattern of banding including concentric and radiating arcs, criss-crossing lines, and a cool gray palette of granite to convey a feeling of comfort through the seasons. All site furnishings, from railings to benches and signs, incorporate the abstracted imagery of the spider lily and other patterns from nature, true to the historic traditions of Islamic architecture and design. Shade trees give comfort, and a rich plant palette of succulents, flowering trees, and other species suited to the area’s extreme temperatures create beauty, interest and character in the Tower Park landscape.
The region’s extreme climate offers unique opportunities for synergy between the tower and the surrounding landscape infrastructure. For instance, the hot and humid outside air, combined with the chilled water cooling system of the building, results in a significant amount of condensation. Every year, fifteen million gallons of condensed water will be collected, drained, and pumped into the site irrigation system for use within the Tower Park.
The landscape elements of the Tower Park continue to Emaar Boulevard, the main roadway of downtown Burj Khalifa. With ground-level shops along its entire 3.5-kilometer length, the boulevard encompasses and connects all major destinations and activities, establishing a world-class street on par with the Champs-Élysées, Park Avenue or the Ramblas. The interplay of landscape and architecture makes this happen. Tightly spaced, double rows of date palms create shade and scale while allowing views to retail frontages and establishing a module for street fairs and gatherings. The palms extend as a green colonnade that conveys scale, identity, and connection to the dominant tower within its park. Deep plaza-like sidewalks, lighting, shade coverings, benches, and an artful array of paving designs and materials reinforce an atmosphere of comfort and urban life. Events and activities further enliven the street—car park access pop-ups, tram stations, cafes and kiosks, news and flower stands, and public art. The street becomes a place in itself, the framework for “rooms” of distinct activities and luxury retail attractions, from high fashion to automobiles and elegant dining.
Other elements of the streetscape tie the boulevard to the tower. At six locations, fountains provide photo opportunities featuring the tower in the background. Carefully detailed paving at intersections echoes the design of paving within the Tower Park and encourages motorists to slow at crossings. Streets furnishings make use of the hymenocallis motif, and plant selection further extends the oasis character of the Tower Park along the boulevard, destined to be one of the world’s premier boulevards.