This week we watch political revolt sweeping the Middle East and we scarcely think of urban spectacle and splendor. It's a twist of history that some of the grandest construction projects ever built (the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge) were constructed during the worst years of the Great Depression.
It's a twist long forgotten in the west but now being reborn in the Middle East.
At 2,717 feet, and taller than any human-made structure, the Burj Kalifa is the world's biggest skyscraper. Completed in January, 2010 it dwarfs former titans in China (Canton Tower at 1,968 feet) and Toronto (CN Tower at 1,815).
Designed by Americans and built by South Koreans, it is a monument to power and urban spectacle.
The Burj Khalifa is in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Not far away the region continues to explode this week with social upheaval. The global financial crisis has also been unkind to Dubai. Foreclosures and vacancies knocked the financial stuffing out of the Burj last year. Dubai, for that matter, nearly went broke but for a bailout by neighbor city Abu Dhabi.
Yet the Burj truly is magnificent architecture. Economic crash aside, the government clearly wants to rise as high above oil dependency as the Burj rises from the ground below. It wants to create a luxurious tourist Mecca in the desert.
In a blog last year I wished everyone could visit the world's largest, and most beautiful, musical water fountain at the base of the Burj. Now my wish is for the whole region to rise high above the violence they now suffer to find the peace and safety we all deserve.