Shanghai Tower: View from the Top
Dan Winey in Design in Asia, San Francisco, Shanghai Tower, Shanghai Tower, Shanghai Tower Lead Architect Jun Xia, Tall Buildings

I recently had the chance to go to the current top of Shanghai Tower to view the progress of construction. At first I was very apprehensive, due to my extreme fear of heights and to the realization that I would soon be standing on a temporary steel platform above the core of what will be the second-tallest building in the world. But I couldn’t pass up such a unique opportunity, and so I put my apprehensions aside on the day in question.

We started our tour on the podium level, which in its current state provides a real sense of scale of the main building entry. When you first walk into Shanghai Tower, you get a stronger sense of entry then what one currently experiences in the Jin Mao Tower or the Shanghai Financial Center. I feel that in both of those buildings the entry sequence is weak and not in keeping with the overall size of the buildings. Shanghai Tower’s lobby is immense; it will house a hotel and retail areas.

Our next stop was the top. We climbed into a steel construction elevator with wire mesh for sides. We weren't alone—there had to be at least 25 or so construction workers. The elevator was powered by two electric motors, one on each side of the elevator. As the electric elevator motors whirled along, all I could think about was how high we were above the elevator shaft floor. As we made our way up to the top, I watched the floor numbers go by...20, 35' 52, 60...until there were no floor numbers. The building currently stands at around 74 stories; its top is just under the height of the adjacent Jin Mao Tower.

View of the Jin Mao Tower.

I was really glad to get out of the elevator but still apprehensive as I climbed out onto the steel plated frame of the building. Once I was free of the elevator, however, I forgot about the height (mostly but not completely) and became absorbed by the scale and complexity of the building. It is amazing to stand out in the open at that elevation! We were almost to the top of the construction cranes and stood above the concrete core, which was being poured below us. It was my first time on a building of this height. We had had to be careful where we walked, because there are many openings to the construction area below, and a simple steel mesh casing is the only thing to prevent you from falling.

One of the things that impressed me the most about the building is how clean and organized the entire construction site is. Even at the top, there were no messes to be found and everything seemed very safe. We spent about 30 minutes at the top, taking in the views of the adjacent buildings. At this point the building is at its mid-point. It will soon be taller than Jin Mao. I tried to imagine our building rising another 400 feet above the Shanghai Financial Center, and, as you may have guessed, those feelings of apprehension returned for a final time.

This week, Shanghai Tower is taking center stage at the Center for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) World Congress in Shanghai, with an entire session track dedicated to the different aspects of its construction. I couldn’t be more proud of the architectural and engineering feats that make this project possible and the work so many people are doing to bring it to fruition.

Once completed, Shanghai Tower will stand as the tallest of three supertall buildings located in the heart of downtown Shanghai.

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
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