Reaching for the stars with Shanghai’s skyline revolution
With more than 1,000 tall buildings rising up across Shanghai in just two decades, China’s largest city has become a modern megatower metropolis. Boasting one of the most distinctive skylines on the planet, these five buildings are truly head and shoulders above the rest:
The Shanghai Tower
In a city where mega towers jostle for space amongst high-rises, there is no doubting the new rising star of the Shanghai skyline. The Shanghai Tower – due to open next year – is second only to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa in the ‘tallest building in the world’ stakes and is officially the tallest building in eastern Asia.
The 121-storey twisted tower, designed by architecture firm Gensler and situated in the heart of the Lujiazui financial district, will house shops, offices, hotels and cultural attractions, as well as an observation deck accessed by a 40mph elevator. At 2,073ft high, it’s more than 400ft taller than Shanghai’s previous tallest tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center.
Its distinctive skywards spiral design was created to not only to embody China’s rising status as a global financial power, but also makes it wind-proof and typhoon resistant.
Oriental Pearl Tower
Opened in 1994 after three years of construction, the Oriental Pearl Tower signalled the start of Shanghai’s second vertical construction boom. This radio and telecommunications tower, designed by Jiang Huan Chen, Lin Benlin and Zhang Xiulin, was China’s tallest structure until 2007 and continues to be a treasured tourist attraction.
It boasts 15 different observation levels, including one with a glass floor, as well as a revolving restaurant, hotel and shopping mall.
The design is based around a series of pearl-style spheres, with the two largest at opposite ends of the spire. Three columns that rise up out of the ground support the entire structure, which boasts a spectacular light show at night, making it a real jewel in the crown of Shanghai’s high-rises.
Shanghai World Financial Centre
If you’re looking for an iconic Shanghai high-rise, you’d be right on the money with the Shanghai World Financial Centre. It may have been recently overtaken as Shanghai’s tallest building by its near neighbour, but this skyscraper is still a status symbol of the city’s financial boom.
Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, it has the nickname ‘the bottle opener’ due to the large aperture at the top which allows wind to pass through, reducing the stress on the building.
But it’s the public observation deck that’s truly worth the visit. At nearly 60ft higher than the deck at the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, it offers breathtaking views across Shanghai.
Jin Mao Tower
This distinctive tiered structure is a modern take of an Oriental gem. Jin Mao Tower, designed by renowned architect Adrian Smith, is a mirrored reflection of a traditional Chinese pagoda.
With its stunning blend of traditional and modern, Jin Mao Tower is one of a trio of mega towers, along with the Shanghai World Financial Centre and Shanghai Tower, which epitomises the city’s resurgence. At 88 storeys, it has this lucky number – associated with fortune and prosperity in Chinese culture – at its heart. But it wasn’t so lucky for French urban climber Alain Robert, who scaled the building in a Spiderman costume in 2007 – ascending his way to five days in a Chinese jail for his daredevil feat.
Shanghai International Finance Centre
All that glitters is truly gold when it comes to high-rise luxury heaven for these twin towers, which achieved LEED Gold certification.
Home to some of Shanghai’s most prestigious shops, brands and restaurants, the Shanghai International Finance Centre has shimmering angular corners designed to resemble the raw reflective beauty of diamonds and gems.
An exclusive shopping mall spans the area between the two towers, while the Ritz-Carlton at the top of the South Tower is the embodiment of hotel glamour, with its rooftop Flair restaurant the highest al fresco dining spot in the city. HSBC occupies the North Tower, symbolising the financial heavyweights behind Shanghai’s vertical expansion.