A Decade of Construction in China
Dan Winey in Design in Asia, San Francisco, Shanghai Tower, Shanghai Tower, Shanghai Tower Construction Update, Shanghai Tower Lead Architect Jun Xia, Tall Buildings
Shanghai Tower

When I first went to China in the mid-1990s, I was surprised by the very poor quality of commercial construction. As I crossed the border at Shenzen, I felt as if I had stepped back in time. Most of the buildings were of the post-World War II vintage and most had gone through many years of deferred maintenance. From my perspective, the finest buildings in the country were those built from the mid-1800s to the early turn of the century. Most everything else was poorly designed, poorly constructed, and not worth saving.

What amazes me now is to see how much has changed over the last decade. I have seen the quality of construction for large commercial projects go from being 50 or more years behind those in the western world to being close to international standards today. I would have never guessed that so much could be accomplished in such a short period of time.

Shanghai Tower

Shanghai Tower, the Jin Mao Tower, and the Shanghai World Financial Center will comprise Asia's first super-highrise district.

When China opened up its borders and began the modernization process, it did so with a vengeance. There was no doubt the country was making up for lost time. The project that changed much of the design and construction landscape was the Jin Mao Tower, by SOM, in the Pudong District of Shanghai. Completed about 10 years ago, the building marked a turning point in the Chinese construction industry and set a new standard for construction quality, especially in terms of curtain walls.

It used to be quite difficult to find consistently high quality curtain wall manufacturers and fabricators in China, but that has changed dramatically over the last five to seven years. China is now exporting curtain wall systems to the United States with a number of installations currently underway in Chicago. It reminds me of the great strides that the Japanese made in automobile manufacturing in the 1970's and 80's.

Shanghai Tower

Shanghai Tower's design incorporates two independent curtain walls. The outer skin is cam-shaped in plan, the inner one is circular, and the space between them forms atriums that will house landscaped public gardens.

Our project, the Shanghai Tower, is seeking to also set a new standard for buildings in China. The complex form, structural systems, double curtain wall, and multiple atria will require a level of sophistication that very few building have achieved. It is also critically important for Shanghai Tower to be of the highest construction quality possible, and I believe the building will exceed that of most other buildings around the world.

As Chinese general contractors continue to improve their construction techniques, and fabricators and suppliers strive to produce products for export to western countries, I think it is inevitable that buildings in China will rival the quality of buildings built in many other countries. Ultimately, this means that buildings will last for fifty years or more and so the quality of their design will need to stand the test of time. But that is a topic for another discussion!

Dan Winey is a member of Gensler’s Board of Directors and the Regional Managing Principal of our Northwest region. Our offices in Shanghai and Beijing were launched under Dan’s purview, and he’s been a key member of our Shanghai Tower team from initial project win through construction. Contact him at dan_winey@gensler.com.
Article originally appeared on architecture and design (http://www.gensleron.com/).
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