Since completing in late 2015, Shanghai Tower has rightfully garnered “instant icon” status as China’s tallest building; its sleek, curving appearance looms over the city as the centerpiece of the Lujiazui financial district. In a new retrospective, the design architect, Gensler, considers the inspiration and impact of the megatall structure, drawing on reflections by stakeholders and a treasure-trove of photography.
The book, seemingly meant more for the coffee table than the library, leans heavily on fantastic imagery that provides an unprecedented look into the construction of the tower, along with some never-before-seen vantages along its height. Many of the written descriptions provide further details on the tower’s design and its intended impact on its surroundings.
In one illuminating passage, design principal Jun Xia shares how his upbringing in a Shanghai Shikumen, a traditional lane house that blends indoor and outdoor space, served as the conceptual starting point for the tower. Xia likens the tower’s atria to the shikumen, placing the design firmly in the context of traditional Chinese spaces. Through these descriptions, it becomes apparent that themes of local culture were carefully integrated into the building, and that only a team based in Shanghai could accomplish this feat.
Though occasionally reductive in its descriptions, the Shanghai Tower retrospective provides enlightening interpretations of the tower design straight from the design team. Throughout, their sense of pride and accomplishment – rightfully earned – is palpable.
Reviewed by Benjamin Mandel,
CTBUH Media Associate