U. S. de­sign firm Gensler, a new­comer to su­per­tall build­ings, puts its stamp on Shang­hai skyline with a twist­ing, asym­met­ri­cal 121- story tower

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Julie Maki­nen : : re­port­ing from shang­hai

To grasp the enor­mous di­men­sions of the Shang­hai Tower, try this sim­ple ex­er­cise: Take the 1,018- foot U. S. Bank build­ing in down­town L. A. — the high­est U. S. build­ing west of the Mis­sis­sippi — and dou­ble it. Take the $ 1- bil­lion bud­get of the Korean Air sky­scraper now ris­ing at Wil­shire and Figueroa and triple it. And take the square footage of the L. A. Con­ven­tion Cen­ter and mul­ti­ply it by six.

The Shang­hai Tower is China’s tallest build­ing and the world’s sec­ond- high­est, be­hind the Burj Khal­ifa in Dubai.

The 121- story struc­ture — now on the verge of open­ing af­ter al­most seven years of con­struc­tion — would be a mon­u­men­tal achieve­ment for even the most ex­pe­ri­enced ar­chi­tec­tural firms spe­cial­iz­ing in so- called su­per­tall build­ings.

Yet for San Fran­cisco de­sign firm Gensler, which beat out three other fi­nal­ists with its twist­ing, asym­met­ri­cal cylin­der-within-a- cylin­der de­sign fea­tur­ing soar­ing park- like atri­ums ev­ery 15 f loors, the com­mis­sion was truly a long shot.

Though Gensler is a global f irm, now with 46 of­fices around the world, the com­pany had only about eight years of ex­pe­ri­ence in China at the time and es­sen­tially no track record with ex­tremely tall build­ings.

“If you had a port­fo­lio of … many, many tall build­ings, you’d say we would have had a much higher prob­a­bil­ity of get­ting” the com­mis­sion, said Dan Winey, head of Gensler’s Asia prac­tice. “But at the time, the big­gest pro­ject that we had done was [ the 54- story ho­tel and condo tower at] L. A. Live.… This is 2 1⁄2 times that.”

De­spite the odds against the firm, Gensler’s strik­ing de­sign won over Chi­nese of­fi­cials seek­ing a sym­bol of the city’s as­pi­ra­tions to be a world fi­nan­cial cen­ter.

At the same time, its eco- con­scious and public- space el­e­ments have at­tracted global in­ter­est as a pos­si­ble mark­ers for a new era of ul­tra- tall struc­tures that aim to be a bit kin­der and gen­tler both on the en­vi­ron­ment and the peo­ple who work, shop, eat and sleep in them.

The build­ing will be LEED Gold cer­ti­fied, a des­ig­na­tion by the Lead­er­ship in Energy and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign rat­ing sys­tem for green build­ings.

It has a gray wa­ter re­cy­cling sys­tem and 270 wind tur­bines to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity to power ex--

terior light­ing. The two- layer glass fa­cade func­tions like a Ther­mos, re­duc­ing energy costs and cre­at­ing space for a se­ries of “sky gar­dens” where of­fice work­ers and ho­tel guests — and even mem­bers of the public — can re­lax, eat and so­cial­ize.

“This is a pretty sig­nif­i­cant tall build­ing sim­ply be­cause of what it em­pha­sizes.... It is ex­pres­sive but it cares about its en­vi­ron­ment,” said Daniel Sa­farik, di­rec­tor of the China of­fice of the Coun­cil on Tall Build­ings and Ur­ban Habi­tat. “It is a turn­ing point.”

Win­ning the de­sign con­test was one thing; get­ting the sky­scraper to soar into the clouds above the Huangpu River was some­thing else. One of the most com­plex build­ings ever en­gi­neered, the Shang­hai Tower’s guitar- pick- shaped form ro­tates 120 de­grees as it ta­pers.

A groove known as a strake helps the struc­ture re­sist and shed the ty­phoonforce winds that are known to bat­ter the city of 23 mil­lion — a de­sign el­e­ment that al­lowed for lighter ma­te­ri­als, sav­ing an es­ti­mated $ 58 mil­lion in costs. The en­tire ex­te­rior glass skin is hung on steel ca­bles.

“Fig­ur­ing out the turn and ta­per and con­struct­ing this wall that’s hang­ing out in space — that was re­ally dif­fi­cult. How does it fit, how is it wa­ter­tight?” Winey re­called. “Many times I thought, ‘ This is not go­ing to work.’ We put it through tests sim­u­lat­ing a typhoon, and the ini­tial mock- ups leaked all over the place.”

On a blus­tery day in late May, work­ers were still toil­ing to seal the struc­ture as rain in­truded in var­i­ous spots from the en­try­way up to the ob­ser­va­tion deck.

“This build­ing, es­sen­tially, is a pro­to­type,” said Mar­shall Stra­bala, a for­mer de­sign di­rec­tor with Gensler who now has his own ar­chi­tec­ture f irm and con­tin­ues to con­sult on Shang­hai Tower. “Some­times you dis­cover a leak and you need to plug it.”

To reach the top of the struc­ture, visi­tors hurtle sky­ward at more than 55 feet a sec­ond in one of the tower’s 106 el­e­va­tors. It takes al­most a minute to reach the 121st f loor.

There, thrill- seek­ers will be able to ven­ture onto an out­door ob­ser­va­tion deck for bird’s- eye views of the Shang­hai Tower’s two su­per­struc­ture neigh­bors: the or­nate, 88- story Jin­mao Tower, opened in 1999, and the wedge- shaped 101- story World Fi­nan­cial Cen­ter, opened in 2008 and of­ten called the bot­tle opener be­cause of the cutout on its up- per f loors.

“Jin­mao ref­er­ences China’s past; it’s a stain­less steel pagoda. And WFC is con­tem­po­rary, Western, clean- cut and hard- edged,” said Jun Xia, the de­sign prin­ci­pal for Gensler on the pro­ject. “Shang­hai Tower is about the fu­ture, but it has to be in har­mony with the other two, so this has a softer form.”

For the last three decades, China’s pop­u­la­tion pres­sures, land scarcity and mas­sive shift from agri­cul­ture to­ward ur­ban liv­ing have pushed the coun­try to the fore­front of sky­scraper con­struc­tion. To­day, 35 of the world’s 100 tallest build­ings are in main­land China. By 2020, that num­ber will rise to 59, ac­cord­ing to the Coun­cil on Tall Build­ings.

Pri­vate de­vel­op­ers are be­hind some of the Chi­nese su­per- tow­ers, but quasigov­ern­men­tal or state- run en­ti­ties are the builder- op­er­a­tors of many of the tallest struc­tures, and Shang­hai Tower is no ex­cep­tion.

That, in ef­fect, changes the eco­nom­ics of these build­ings be­cause these long- term land­lords can make dif­fer­ent choices about ma­te­ri­als and de­sign.

“A spec­u­la­tive [ built] off ice build­ing is less likely to be green than an owner- oc­cu­pied one,” Stra­bala said. “A typ­i­cal Amer­i­can devel­oper wants pay­back in three to f ive years, 10 years at the most. Here, the client will run the build­ing for the next 50 years, so they’ll in­vest in sys­tems that might cost more up­front but start to pay for them­selves af­ter five or even 10 years.”

Winey said Shang­hai Tower is an ex­er­cise in mak­ing a ver­ti­cal city, with the park- like atri­ums open to the public.

“There are 21 14- story city parks or atri­ums that com­prise the heart of the build­ing,” he said. “What [ U. S.] build­ing would have 21 14story atri­ums? … Nor­mally the public is locked out” of such ameni­ties.

“The ab­sence of a com­pletely hard- nosed profit mo­tive can lead to more in­ter­est­ing build­ings,” Sa­farik said. “These build­ings do have some­thing to teach us — most of these build­ings are be­ing done by U. S. and U. K. ar­chi­tects who can’t do this kind of work at home, where the tastes are more con­ser­va­tive.

“China is break­ing the mold over and over again.”

Gensler isn’t the only Cal­i­for­nia com­pany in­volved with the Shang­hai Tower. Ed­gett Wil­liams Con­sult­ing Group in Mill Val­ley, Calif., de­signed the build­ing ’s el­e­va­tor and es­ca­la­tor sys­tems, and SWA Group in Sausal­ito, Calif., was the land­scape ar­chi­tect. Los An­ge­les real es­tate man­ager CBRE Group Inc. has been hired for prop­erty man­age­ment.

Apart from the main tower de­sign, Gensler’s Los An­ge­les of­fice de­signed the re­tail and en­ter­tain­ment podium at the base of the sky­scraper. About two dozen mem­bers of Gensler’s L. A. team worked on the pro­ject, with six to eight peo­ple spend­ing about a year in Shang­hai and oth­ers work­ing re­motely.

Over the last decade, many U. S. ar­chi­tec­ture firms, par­tic­u­larly from Chicago and New York, also have put their stamp on the sky­lines of dozens of Chi­nese cities.

With China’s econ­omy now slow­ing and Chi­nese f irms seek­ing real- es­tate deals abroad, the re­la­tion­ship with U. S. ar­chi­tec­ture f irms is shift­ing into a new phase.

“We have a lot of Chi­nese in­vestors com­ing to Los An­ge­les and San Fran­cisco,” said Andy Co­hen, one of Gensler’s two co- chief ex­ec­u­tives. “That cap­i­tal is help­ing to re­shape our cities, which has frankly been re­ally great.... It’s com­pletely re­versed.”

Chi­nese devel­oper Green­land, for in­stance, has com­mis­sioned Gensler to work on the Me­trop­o­lis pro­ject in down­town Los An­ge­les. Other Chi­nese de­vel­op­ers, in­clud­ing Wanda Group and Hazens In­vest­ment that re­cently an­nounced projects in Cal­i­for­nia, are sim­i­larly look­ing to U. S. firms that have done work in China to de­sign their new build­ings state­side.

“Now, it’s not just one way, but it’s com­ing both ways,” Co­hen said. “It’s been an in­ter­est­ing f lip.”

Nick May For The Times


lower right, is the sec­ond- tallest build­ing in the world and one of the most com­plex build­ings ever en­gi­neered.

Nick May For The Times

JUN XIA, the de­sign prin­ci­pal for Gensler on Shang­hai Tower, stands in front of the build­ing, whose guitar- pick- shaped form ro­tates 120 de­grees as it ta­pers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.