Some call it the "bottle opener" building, but the architects aimed for great serenity and grace in the chaotic Lujiazui skyline. Nancy Zhang takes a look at the world's third-tallest skyscraper Shanghai planners like things big and splendid. So they decided to build the Shanghai World Financial Center in Pudong rising to 492 meters, so far the world's third-tallest building.
For better or worse, sheer height gives buildings landmark status. And the SWFC certainly is a 101-story stunner, notable for a huge trapezoidal opening at the top (the "bottle opener") and scimitar-like curved sides.
It seems to have a shape-shifting quality. Curved and covered entirely in glass, the US$1 billion building that opened in August reflects the sky by day and the lights of Pudong by night. Architects aimed for "a great serenity," grace and elegance.
The statistics: At 492 meters, it surpasses Jin Mao Tower, now the second-tallest building in Shanghai. It has the world's highest observation deck at 474 meters, floor space of 381,600 square meters, 64 elevators and escalators. Rent is US$3 per square meter per day - the most expensive in town.
It was funded by Japanese developer Minoru Mori and took 11 years to complete. It was halted twice, once during the Asian financial crisis, and again for a redesign to make it taller.
Records come and go, and next year the Burj Dubai in the United Arab Emirates will hold the record for both occupied and unoccupied buildings - over 800 meters.
Fortunately, the architectural design of the SWFC is also a league above the rest.
The building's strongest claim to fame is its all-surpassing height. It is rich in symbolism. Its height represents the success of Shanghai's development and confidence in the future.
When it was commissioned by the Shanghai Municipal Government in 1993, the financial center was planned to be the tallest building in the world. Mori brought in veteran skyscraper architects, the American firm Kohn Pedersen Foxx. KPF designed the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC, the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, and Plaza 66 in Shanghai.
Despite their high-profile portfolio, KPF brings a surprisingly low-key ideology to the art of building highrises.
"Our firm is characterized by our efforts to make a building fit with its surroundings. We hope the building is not recognized as a KPF building, but as one that's right for Shanghai," says architect Eugene Kohn, one of the founders.
The building is planted in Lujiazui, which is saturated with around 80 big-budget buildings of multiple architectural styles. The 88-story Jin Mao Tower, evocative of a complicated pagoda, is right next door. KPF chose to emphasize simplicity.