China’s Shanghai Tower: A massive urban green space

3 min read

The newly-topped 632 metre (over 2000 feet) Shanghai Tower is currently the world’s second tallest structure, outdone only by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

But equally impressive is what it will have going on inside.

In addition to 521,000 square meters of floor space, 106 elevators, a weight of 1,200 metric tons, and the ability to hold 30,000 people, a full one-third of the building is dedicated to green spaces.

In this respect, the Shanghai Tower is more of a self-contained city than a tower, and a city of parks at that.

Back in August, the building’s designers, Gensler Asia, held a topping-out ceremony where the lead designer (Dan Whiney) spoke about the buildings purpose and inspiration:

“Our client essentially is the government. The government is looking for a symbol of the emergence of China, the development of Shanghai as a major financial centre. If you look at the history of Shanghai, it’s a city of parks. When you come into the building, on the first couple floors are gardens and green walls, and every 14 floors there’s what I would consider to be a city park. There are also three 14-story atrium spaces.”

In keeping with this “city of parks” theme, the building is carved up into nine 12-to-15 story high vertical zones with sky gardens lining the perimeter. Each park is different, both in shape and landscaping. At the lower levels, the parks are close to 50,000 square feet in size. But as the building rises higher and it tapers and twists, the parks are adjusted accordingly. They are also designed with different themes in mind, showcasing tropical climates, native grasses, and other assorted flora and fauna.

According to Winey, the parks will contain cafes, food service, cultural events, and even art fairs, which will give the building the feel of a permanent living space rather than a temporary domicile. In addition to living and working inside the tower, tenants will also be able to play and attend social functions, giving them the impression that they are able to experience all life has to offer without ever leaving the building.

In addition, the new building will boast some sustainable features, which is clearly meant to showcase China’s growing concern over environmental issues. In the case of the Shanghai Tower, this includes a transparent second skin that wraps around the entire structure, drawing in outside air from the bottom. The skin cools the air in the summer and makes it warm in the winter.

In this respect, the building makes use of what architect Marco de Santi coined as an “arcology”, architecture and urban planning that incorporates ecology into the design. In addition to sustainable energy production and green spaces, the issue of space management is also central. In a city like Shanghai, where 27 million residents live and urban sprawl and pollution are major problems, city planners recognise the need for going vertical and integrating city spaces along vertical planes.

The building is expected to be completed in 2015 and will be the world’s first living example of a sustainable building and vertical green space. Similar projects have already been proposed for Boston, New OrleansTokyo, Moscow, and other major cities, but are either stuck in development or have been postponed due to budget constraints. By seizing the initiative and going ahead with this development, China has indicated that it intends to lead the way in yet another area of development – creating the sustainable, urban living spaces of the future.

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Tony Simon

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