Best skyscrapers in Shanghai

Best skyscrapers in Shanghai

Architect Rachel Burgess talks about what constitutes a great Shanghai skyscraper, and which ones make the grade

Shanghai is home to 16 skyscrapers taller than 250 meters, with Dubai being the only city in the world to have more.

With money pouring into the city faster than ever, the skyline is constantly changing and continually rising.

A British national, Rachel Burgess earned her Master's degree in architecture in Germany and is now a team leader and senior interior designer for Shanghai-based architecture firm, iaction.

Here, the 34-year-old architect casts an appreciative eye over the towers she likes the most in Shanghai. 

Editor's note: The list covers Shanghai's most important skyscrapers, with the exception of the 632-meter Shanghai Tower, which is still under construction. Once completed in 2014, the 124-story structure will become China’s tallest building and the second-tallest building in the world after the 828-meter Burj Khalifa.

International Finance Center (上海国金中心)

Shanghai skyscrapers -- IFCDesigned to look like raw diamonds, the Shanghai IFC twin towers satisfy your cravings for luxury shopping, dining and accommodation.

Height: 53 stories, 250 meters (South Tower); 57 stories, 260 meters (North Tower)

Completion date: July 2011

Having designed the showroom for the International Finance Center (IFC) in Shanghai, Burgess discovered the symbolism of the design.

“It's a very clever building; the symbolic meaning of the facade represents a gem, so the corners are cut like a jewel and both towers seem sort of like raw diamonds,” says Burgess.

“The facade of the shopping mall between the towers is the same, making the jewellery 'set' complete.”

The first six floors (two underground, four above ground) of the twin towers are a 110,000-square-meter mall, featuring all the brands that most of us can't afford, some of the brands we can, plenty of dining options and a cinema.

According to their official website, the two towers are the first office buildings in Shanghai to obtain Gold certification from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for environmental sustainability.

Situated right near the Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai IFC is a great place to shop, see a movie or, if you want to spoil yourself, spend a weekend in the Ritz-Carlton at the top of the South Tower. The rooftop restaurant and bar Flair provides a breath-taking view of Puxi and a (very) close-up look of the Pearl Tower.

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Shanghai International Finance Center, 8 Shiji Da Dao, near Yincheng Bei Lu 世纪大道8号, 近银城北路, +86 21 6311 5588, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. (IFC mall),

Wheelock Square (上海会德丰广场)

Shanghai skyscrapers -- wheelockWheelock Square sports a sexy exterior and a well-connected location.

Height: 62 stories, 270 meters

Completion date: June 2010

At 270 meters, Wheelock Square in Jing'an is one of the tallest buildings west of the Huangpu River.

“It has brilliant infrastructure,” says Burgess, “with connections to the Metro Line 2 which takes you to both airports and the Maglev station.”

The pure office building also has a Gold energy-efficiency rating with LEED.

“Like its big brother, the SWFC, it has a very dynamic, sleek and sexy exterior. The slit up the side of the curtain wall reminds me of a high slit in an elegant dress.”

“With the angular shape of a rhombus and evenly spaced columns, internal planning becomes a breeze,” says Burgess. “The public spaces are neat, clean and well-thought-through.”

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Wheelock Square, 1717 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Huashan Lu, 南京西路1717号, 近华山路,

Jin Mao Tower (金茂大厦)

Shanghai skyscrapers -- jinmaoOnce the tallest building in mainland China, the 88-story Jin Mao Tower (second from the left) was designed to represent Shanghai's "past."

88 stories, 420.5 meters

Completion date: March 1999

“The uniqueness of its design, its symbolic intention to look like growing bamboo and with the filigree setting, it almost invites you to 'Spiderman' up the outside walls,” says Burgess.

In fact, a couple of people managed to get past security and did just that.

Han Qizhi from Anhui climbed the Jin Mao Tower on a whim in 2001. And then in 2007, notorious French “urban climber” Alain Roberts did it wearing -- no joke -- a Spiderman costume.

“The design is heavily influenced by feng shui, with its 88 floors and images of growth.”

“In fact, the block containing the Jin Mao, Shanghai World Financial Center and Shanghai Tower are designed to represent Shanghai past, Shanghai present and Shanghai future. The floor plate of the entire area is planned out for best feng shui.”

The Jin Mao's 1,500-square-meter observation deck provides a 360-degree view of the city and boasts China's highest post box. (Yes, that's right, in case you just have to send a letter to someone right now ... and your phone is dead.)

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Jin Mao Tower, 88 Shiji Da Dao, near Dongtai Lu 世纪大道88号, 近东泰路, 10 a.m.-10p.m.(observation deck),

Shanghai World Financial Center (上海环球金融中心)

Shanghai skyscrapers -- swfcThe giant "bottle opener" of Shanghai is currently the tallest structure in mainland China. Photo by Flickr user <a href="" target="_blank">Suvcon</a>.

101 stories, 492 meters

Completion date: August 2008

Burgess designed eight floors in the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) for financial services conglomerate Ernst & Young.

“The safety features in this tower are excellent, with 'refuge floors' placed between blocks of 10 inhabitable floors and two external elevators,” she said.

The building also actively reduces the effect of windstorms and earthquakes with two mass-dampeners installed high in the structure to shift the building's weight.

“Obviously, the SWFC is very cool from the exterior, with clean, tapering lines,” says Burgess. "From a planning point of view, though, it's a bit of a pain.” 

“All the AV systems and air-conditioning have been installed along the perimeter of the building, so when you build up walls against the perimeter, you always have to leave access panels of 30 centimeters, which means the sound carries between rooms.”

The SWFC's glass-floor observation deck is the highest in the world. At 474 meters, it beats out the Burj Khalifa's public deck by 18 meters.

Access costs RMB150 for all three decks; you get in free if it's your birthday.

For those who want to spend their bucks more wisely, skip the observation deck and have a cuppa at Park Hyatt’s lobby on the 87th floor of the same building . 

Occupying the 79th to 93rd floor of SWFC, this is one of the world’s highest hotels and its lobby boasts an equally thrilling bird’s-eye view of the city. 

Party animals can head to Park Hyatt’s Shanghai Lounge and Music Bar on the 92nd floor. Better yet, ladies’ night is on every Wednesday from 8:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.

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Shanghai World Financial Center, 100 Shiji Da Dao, near Dongtai Lu世纪大道100号, 近东泰路, +86 400 110 0555, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. (observation deck),

Tomorrow Square (明天广场)

Shanghai skyscrapers -- tomorrow squareTomorrow Square's glowing spire has become a landmark for residents in Puxi. Photo by Flickr user <a href="" target="_blank">dimitris.argyris</a>.

60 stories, 286 meters

Completion date: October 2003

This bulk of the 286-meter castle right next to People's Square houses the luxury JW Marriott hotel.

The tower contains the hotel, private apartments, offices and a half-dozen restaurants, all with an uncommon view of Shanghai looking outwards from the center of the city.

According to Burgess, “its dramatic silhouette, perhaps one of the best in Shanghai, gets even more spectacular once the sun goes down.”

The 50-meter tall, four-pronged spire houses a globe which slowly works its way through the color spectrum after dark.

Special points go to the JW Marriott for having its own smartphone app

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Tomorrow Square, 399 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Huangpi Bei Lu 南京西路399号, 近黄陂北路, +86 21 5359 4969

Edward Falzon is a Shanghai-based author, religious scholar and anti-theist.

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