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What If We Covered the Burj Khalifa in a Big Condom?

A surreal architectural proposal would encase the world's tallest skyscraper in a fabric sheath.


The world's tallest skyscraper, the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa, can be pretty hard to miss. What other reason would somebody have for wanting to wrap it in a massive sheet of reflective fabric?

"Exo-Burj," a thought fart from creative think tank OP-EN, would drape the entirety of the building's 160 stories in a sheath of lightweight and semitransparent material. This titanic architectural condom would then mirror the surrounding city, providing an utterly new and strange facet to Dubai's skyline. Here's OP-EN's vision for the project:

The proposed support structure is fan-shaped, circling the Burj Khalifa with the main connection point stemming from the tower’s spire. Visitors would not only be able to view the temporary installation from a distance – which would reflect the tower and its surroundings – but also walk up-close and experience the installation first-hand.

The end-result would amplify the visual perspectives of the city’s skyline, augment the tower’s symbol as an urban centre of gravity and create an artistic atmosphere on a vast architectural scale.

There's no indication as to why they would actually want to do this; like the group's other projects ("Pixels of Smell"?), it seems strictly a conceptual experiment. But there is something perversely funny in outfitting the highest building on earth with a pseudo-invisibility cloak. The only ones who might hate it more than the original architects might be the birds that fly into it:

Images by OP-EN via Designboom

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.