Shanghai Tower: China’s Tallest Building – for Now
Image Credit: Wikicommons

Shanghai Tower: China’s Tallest Building – for Now


With the main structure set for completion Saturday, now is a good time to take a look at Shanghai Tower, the hulking $15 billion edifice that will be, if only for a moment, China’s tallest building.

But first, a quick word on China’s building frenzy of late. While Shanghai Tower has been in the news for some time, more recently other buildings have been announced that are to be constructed in a flash. Soon after the 121-floor Shanghai Tower’s completion, however, the 208-floor Sky City tower in Changsha, Hunan province will stand even higher.

While Sky City’s planned height of 2739 will make it the world’s tallest building, Shanghai Tower (2,073 feet) – poised to be the third highest after Sky City and Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (2,717 feet) – has a different sort of cachet. The tower’s lead designer, Shanghai-born Jun Xia, is keenly aware of this fact.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

“There will always be another taller building,” Xia, who heads the Shanghai office of San Francisco-based architecture firm Gensler, told The Telegraph. “It's not about the physical height but it's about how high you can reach in terms of creating a meaningful, sustainable and human tall building.”

Xia continued, “If we achieved our goal, time will tell. But I think the building will become a living laboratory for many people to learn about tall buildings and how they can be sustainable.”

Tomorrow a ceremony will be held for the crowing of this “living laboratory” which will finally open its doors to the public next year. Along with Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai Tower will nicely fill out the skyline of Shanghai’s burgeoning Lujiazui financial district, which was effectively a giant rice paddy a few decades ago. Photos of the skyscraper laden district can be seen here.

As The Telegraph goes on to note, just creating the building’s 18-foot-deep foundation required 63 hours of non-stop work to pour, with the gradually rising structure requiring 1,079 concrete-and-steel piles to keep it in place. Once finished, the tower will contain more than 6 million square feet of office and retail space, which will attract an estimated 16,000 visitors daily. These visitors will be able to move quickly between the building’s 121 floors on what will be the world’s fastest elevator – expected to clock speeds of 40 mph.

Surrounding the building’s 90 feet by 90 feet concrete core will be a layer of glass that will insulate the building and regulate its energy consumption. The structure contains eight levels interspersed by atriums with ceilings high enough to house trees as tall as 10 meters. The result will be a functional bioclimatic tower that will help regulate the cooling of the building. Its twisting form will reduce wind load during typhoons by 24 percent. Exterior illumination will be powered by 270 wind-powered generators.

Taking the “vertical city” concept full throttle, Shanghai Tower will revolve around tree-lined sky lobbies meant to reflect Shanghai’s traditional courtyard communities.

While the tower is no doubt an amazing achievement from the standpoints of architecture and design, it has also evoked negative reactions. Last month The Diplomat’s Pacific Money blog raised the question of whether massive construction projects are little more than epic cases of capital misallocation. An anonymous editorial published in China Daily harshly criticized the project for similar reasons. Others have raised safety concerns, citing the fact that large cracks have been spotted in the pavement nearby the tower’s foundations.

Cracks or not, China is moving full speed ahead with a number of skyscrapers, including nine of the 20 tallest buildings under construction in the world.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief