Empire State Building vs Bhurj Khalifa: World’s Greatest Building


For years, when asked to name the greatest building in the world, most people would have said the Empire State Building.  But has that mantle now passed to the Bhurj Khalifa (formerly the Bhurj Dubai)?

For 40 years, the Empire State Building stood as the tallest building in the world and a symbol of New York and the capability of humans.  It stood as a “monument to the excesses of the 1920’s”, during the great depression of the 1930’s.  It is not the most elegant building ever conceived, but then that depends on your definition of elegance.  This symmetrical phallus or “lone dinosaur”, has an emotional place in many people’s hearts. 

The following archival footage certainly does it for me.  I literally had dreams of visiting this building, so it was literally a dream come true when I finally did. 

With the diabolical safety practices of the day, it was amazing only 6 people died during construction!  Working at great heights without harnesses and tossing hot rivets at each other!  Yipes!


But is the Bhurj Khalifa, the new people’s favourite of today?  Soaring 828 m tall, 160 stories, it is more than twice the height of the Empire State and a gleaming example of the marvels of today’s engineering capability.  The Empire State Building is only 381 m high, 102 stories which was a limit of the technology of the day.  Yes, the Bhurj Khalifa is truly impressive.


But is it fair to compare these two magnificent buildings?  One clearly has the advantage of being born in more technological advanced times.  And does size (ok height) matter?  Does tallest mean best?

In my opinion, the Bhurj Khalifa does have the ability to conjure the same emotion as the Empire State, which was a building constructed with sweat and hard graft and capturing the attention of a nation. 

The Bhurj Khalifa is too new.  It does not have the history that the Empire State has.  Time is needed to reflect and digest.  With the benefit of time, buildings have the ability to mature emotionally and be more critically recognised.

So perhaps in time I may vote differently, but for the conceivable future my vote for the greatest building in the world is still firmly with the Empire State Building.



3 responses to “Empire State Building vs Bhurj Khalifa: World’s Greatest Building”

  1. Surely there can be no doubt that the Burj Khalifa is the supreme building in the world. The days of America with its puny Empire State building are at an end. If the greatness of a civilisation is measured in the heights of its buildings (France had its moment with the Eiffel Tower, the UK had a brief burst with Canary Wharf, and the USA has for many years had Empire State, Sears Roebuck Tower, and the Twin Trade Towers), then surely – surely, even the most hardened heart of every westerner must accept that the Burj Khalifa is the crowning pinnacle of achievement of all civilisation!

  2. I was unaware that the Empire State Building was in the running for “world’s greatest building.” Much as I love it, most people consider the Taj Mahal the gold standard, I thought. Also, it is certainly not a symbol of the excesses of the 1920s – it was started in 1930 and featured a much more restrained version of Art Deco. As to Khalid – I assume you are joking, as both buildings were designed by Americans.

  3. I am not joking at all, Mr David. Taj Mahal is a beautiful structure, with poetic outline and lovelorn origin. But nothing can equate to the greatness of upright vertical height, as with the Empire State, the Twin Trade towers, and the almighty heights of the Burj Khalifa. Yes, the company of design is American, but there are many people and many countries of origin that make up the construction team of a tower like the Burj. What is the power behind the tower however is the economy that pushes it forward. In 1930, the economy leading the world was that of America. Now, America’s economy lies in a messy state, and so does Japan. For the last few years, China’s economy has been marvelled at, and they have many tall buildings of wondrous height. But now, there is one economy only that really rules, and it is the economy based on oil.

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