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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dubai Skyscraper Reaches New High

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Developers of a 512-meter skyscraper still under construction in oil-rich Dubai claimed that it had become the world's tallest building, surpassing Taiwan's Taipei 101, which has dominated the global skyline at 508 meters since 2004.

The Burj Dubai is expected to be finished by the end of 2008, and its planned final height has been kept secret. The state-owned development company, Emaar Properties, one of the main builders in rapidly developing Dubai, said Saturday only that the tower would stop somewhere above 693 meters.

When the development is completed, the skyscraper will feature more than 160 floors, 56 elevators, luxury apartments, boutiques, swimming pools, spas, exclusive corporate suites, Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani's first hotel, and a 124th floor observation platform.

After North American and Asian cities marked their 20th century economic booms with skyscrapers, the Gulf grew eager to show off its success with ever-taller buildings. In Dubai, long an oil-rich Gulf symbol of rapid economic growth, the building reflects the city's hunger for global prestige.

"It's a symbol of Dubai as a city of the world," said Greg Sang, who serves as the project director for Emaar Properties.

Mohammed Ali Alabbar, chairman of Emaar, said it will be an architectural and engineering masterpiece of concrete, steel and glass.

The $1 billion skyscraper is in the heart of downtown Dubai, a 200-hectare development area worth $20 billion. Construction, which began just 1,276 days ago, has been frenzied -- at times, one story rises every three days.

The tip of the Burj's spire will be seen for 100 kilometers, developers say. But Sang knows it will not dominate the world's skyline forever.

"It's a fact of life that, at some point, someone else will build a taller building," he said. "There's a lot of talk of other tall buildings, but five years into Burj Dubai's construction, no one's started building them yet," he said.

Previous skyscraper record-holders include New York's Empire State Building at 381 meters; Shanghai's Jin Mao Building at 421 meters; Chicago's Sears Tower at 442 meters; and Malaysia's Petronas Towers at 452 meters.

The Burj will let the Middle East reclaim the world's tallest structure. Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza, built around 2500 B.C., held the title with its 147 meters until the Eiffel Tower in Paris was built in 1889 at a height of 300 meters, or 312 meters including the flag pole.

The company says the Burj will fulfill the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat's four criteria for the tallest building: the height of the structural top, the highest occupied floor, the roof's top, and the spire's tip, pinnacle, antenna, mast or flag pole.

For now, the unattractive brownish concrete skeleton jutting into Dubai's humid skies lacks any aura of a masterpiece. Rising 141 floors with a mass of surrounding cranes and girders, it has no windows, glass or steel yet.

The project's architects and engineers are American, while the main building contractor is South Korean.

Most of the 4,000 laborers are Indian. They toil around the clock in Dubai's sizzling summer with no set minimum wage.

Human rights groups regularly protest against labor abuse in Dubai, but local media rarely report such complaints.