Shanghai Tower Urban Design For The Sustainable Future

Since the early planning of Shanghai's Lujiazui Financial district in 1986, this 25-year redeveloped project was initiated to transform the city (Interface News, 2018). With China seeking to redefine Shanghai as the pinnacle of economic growth and technological innovation. It was evident early in the planning of the Lujiazui district that it would become home to China's tallest and most advanced buildings (Interface News, 2018). The project initiated in 1994 with the opening of the 468m Oriental Pearl to the 2008 completion of the crystalline Shanghai World Financial Center [SWFC] (Interface News, 2018). The skyline of Shanghai transformed into great heights. However, the icon of China's futuristic city was always planned to be the Shanghai Tower (Interface News, 2018).

Shanghai Tower Rendering (Rosenfield, 2012)

This $2.4 billion project came to fruition in August 2005 when the city's municipal leader Chen Liangyu began the consultation process with the city's Urban Planning Bureau (Hu and Chen, 2019). During the initial stages of planning, the bureau researched the proposed lot as well as surrounding current and future structures. From their research, the bureau determined that the Shanghai Tower would have to be designed in harmony with its surrounding environment (Hu and Chen, 2019). According to Richard Hu and Weijie Chen's book "Global Shanghai Remade," the height of the building needed to be precisely 632m. The bureau calculated this height to place the Shanghai Tower at even proportions to its surrounding structures. These guidelines would place Shanghai Tower 140m above than the Jinmao Tower, and 70m above the SWFC (Hu and Chen, 2019)

As the Shanghai Tower entered the next stages of planning, it became clear that as a testament to the city, the tower would need to exist in Feng Shui to its environment. This ancient Chinese art of placement follows the practice in which people should live in harmony with their surroundings (Cho, 2020). It may be difficult to notice the implementation of Feng Shui in China's cities. However, according to London South Bank University's Yinong Xu, Feng Shui has consistently influenced the skylines of China over the last decades of redevelopment (Xu, 2000). Therefore, state-owned developer of the Shanghai Tower distributed creative briefs to the world's leading architecture firms (Hu and Chen, 2019). The Urban Planning Bureau included three specific design goals which the architects would need to follow (Hu and Chen, 2019).

The first goal was to design the tower to represent Shanghai's "one mind and pursuance of excellence," (Hu and Chen, 2019). The second goal was to design the tower to maintain a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding environment (Hu and Chen, 2019). The third goal was to create harmonious and functional interior spaces that would integrate nature with human life (Hu and Chen, 2019). All three of these goals had the purpose of implementing Feng Shui and innovation in all facets of Shanghai Tower's design. According to the book "Global Shanghai Remade," the developer received a total of 40 concepts by the architecture firms (Hu and Chen, 2019). This extensive undertaking commenced three years of design processes and voting from Shanghai's People's Congress to choose a final design (Hu and Chen, 2019)

By spring 2008, American architecture firm Gensler won the bid for its "micro-city" proposal (Arch20, 2020). As a firm, Gensler is internationally recognized for its work on the PNC Plaza Tower in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as well as the San Francisco International Airport (Gensler, 2020). However, what spoke to the newly formed Shanghai Tower Construction and Development Company [STCDC] was Gensler's integration of the mixed-use neighborhood model (Hu and Chen, 2019). The mixed-use model follows the concept in which retail, office, residential, hotel, and cultural spaces can exist within the same zoned land (UD, 2020). For Gensler's lead architect for the Shanghai Tower project, Jun Xia, who is native to the region. Xia wanted the design of the tower to integrate the mixed-use neighborhood model into a "vertical city,” (Wang, 2015)

According to an interview with the Chinese Architecture blog, ADstyle, Xia stated the tower's design "comes from my childhood memories in Shanghai,” (Wang, 2015). In Xia's memories, Shanghai had always followed this model by integrating multi-faceted spaces (Wang, 2015). Therefore, to bring this model into the Shanghai Tower, Gensler designed the structure based on nine separate vertical zones (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). Each of these vertical zones services multiple functions, including; retail in the podium, five zones of commercial office spaces, a luxury hotel, boutique office spaces, and observational/cultural facilities at the peak (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). Each zone, which ranges between 12 to 15 stories are connected by high-speed direct elevators, which brings occupants directly to sky lobbies (Sasha Zeljic, 2010)

In total, the Shanghai Tower has 149 elevators support to support transportation through each zone (Quigley, 2015). These elevator systems were developed by Mitsubishi Electric to create a high-density design, which enables them to travel at a max rate of 46mph (Quigley, 2015). For Gensler, the implementation of these vertical transportation systems was all part of the goal to establish the tower as an efficient "vertical city," serving multiple communities at once (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). To celebrate Shanghai Tower as the final stage of the Lujiazui redevelopment project, Gensler and STCDC held a spectacle of a groundbreaking ceremony on December 2nd, 2008 (Petrunia, 2008). From that day, the development partnership embarked on a seven-year journey to complete the world's 2nd tallest building.

During the process of erecting the Shanghai Tower, Gensler went through multiple modifications as funding struggled through the hindrance of the 2011 global financial crisis (Hu and Chen, 2019). However, when the building was completed on February 18th, 2015, the Shanghai Tower stood as a stark testament to China's exponential growth (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). In considering the overall design of the Shanghai Tower, it is evident that the building at the most basic level was created to exist in harmony with its environment. When viewing the structure, Shanghai Tower's unique and organic form embodies its natural surroundings. The tower's streamlined facade of glass has a beautiful translucent quality. As the neighboring sky changes from dawn to dusk, the building camouflages in an aura of colors and light. 

Amongst Shanghai Tower's neighboring skyscrapers, the building's twisting motion gives it a fluid form. According to Xia, this fluidity in form is directly derived from the Huangpu River's natural curve, which circumferences the Lujiazui district  (Wang, 2015). Additionally, according to Gensler's case study, the basic geometric form is an equilateral triangle (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). This equilateral triangle serves as a reference to when Euclidean geometry was introduced to China by the French in 1690. In China's history, this introduction to mathematics and sciences by the French Jesuits sets forth the timeline of the country's transformation to an international presence (Engelfriet, 1998).

To determine the perfect rate of twist for the Shanghai Tower, Gensler ran a 1:85 scale model through significant testing in wind tunnels (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). This testing was conducted by American company Rowan, Williams, Davies, and Irwin Inc. [RWDI] (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). Through the testing, Gensler determined that the optimal rate of twist would be 120 degrees in rotation (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). This 120 degrees rotation not only allowed for a 55% reduction of wind force loads on the structure (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). But the rate of twist enabled the designers to maximize interior space sizes throughout the tower. To achieve this form, Gensler employed the use of a double curtain wall support system (Sasha Zeljic, 2010).

For the Shanghai Tower, the core of the building consists of stacked cylinders to form each zone. In Gensler's design, curtain wall B is the inner glass wall that covers each cylindrical section (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). The outer form of the building is created by curtain wall A, which is suspended by a complex strut system from the inner core (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). Each glass panel that constructs curtain wall A is angled precisely to create the tapering of rotation at the peak of the tower (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). In high-wind conditions such as China's monsoon season, curtain wall A allows the force to pass by the tower with the least resistance. This purposeful design of the Shanghai Tower to live in harmony with both wind and water is a beautiful modern representation of Feng Shui.

This innate belief to design Shanghai Tower to represent that natural connection between people and the earth became the initiative to support its sustainable design. Therefore, Gensler wanted the interior of the building to allow people to exist lives in conjunction with the structure itself. For Gensler, curtain wall A enabled them to take advantage of the segmented structure to create interior green spaces. These 24 green spaces deemed as "sky gardens," are strategically placed through the 128 stories (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). Each "sky garden" supports lush native greenery, flowers, and trees to provide occupants a connection with earth even at 500m in the air (Eco-Business, 2016). As part of the sustainable design of these atriums, each garden is supported by a building-wide rainwater collection and greywater recycling system (Eco-Business, 2016).

For the Shanghai Tower, initial planning estimated that a significant draw of energy would be the extensive ventilation and air condition system needed to support this "vertical city,” (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). Therefore, the designers and engineers at Gensler decided to leverage the passive greenhouse effect created by the double curtain wall design and interior green spaces (Eco-Business, 2016). To leverage this passive greenhouse effect, engineers incorporated massive air intakes and exhaust vents at the bottom and top of each zone (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). At the bottom, controlled air intakes would allow outside air to be filtered and flow into the atrium spaces as well as the building HVAC system (Sasha Zeljic, 2010)

During the winter months, the air would be heated by the sun radiating through the curtain wall (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). During the summer months, fresh air would be forced in from the intakes to replace the warmer interior air as it exits out of the top (Sasha Zeljic, 2010). Additionally, the lush greenery and trees in the green spaces would allow some internal air pollutants to be naturally filtered (Eco-Business, 2016). According to Gensler's case study, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] estimates this passive greenhouse effect results in an energy efficiency of 21% (Sasha Zeljic, 2010).  In addition to this natural ventilation, Shanghai Tower has a total of 43 advanced sustainable design features (Eco-Business, 2016). These features ranging from advanced building-wide lighting controls to zone-based water controls, contribute to the reduction of 34k metric tonnes from the tower's annual carbon footprint (Eco-Business, 2016).

However, the most notable sustainable feature is that Shanghai Tower produces some of its electricity. Located at the tower's peak, large open-air sections allow wind to pass through 270 integrated wind turbines (Ge, 2016). These wind turbines at max capacity can produce 1.2 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year (Ge, 2016). According to Chinese news source Shine, these wind turbines can account for 10% of the tower's yearly energy demands (Shunyi, 2018). As a result of these sustainable features, Shanghai Tower has the groundbreaking honor of being the 1st LEED Platinum certified skyscraper (Shunyi, 2018). In comparison, the Freedom Tower, which ranks at one of the world's most energy-efficient skyscrapers, is only LEED Gold certified and is 245.5m shorter (SOM, 2016).

Additionally, with this energy produced by the wind turbines, Shanghai Tower can counteract the demand of its exterior lighting. In partnership with form American lighting manufacture OSRAM, Gensler designed the recessed frames of curtain wall to incorporate high-powered LEDs (OSRAM, 2020). According to OSRAM, this dynamic lighting system includes the use of 22,000 LEDs lining the central zones and 15,000 LEDs in the peak to create a circumferencing video screen (OSRAM, 2020).  At night this transforms Shanghai Tower into a stunning gem in the city's skyline. This advanced lighting system is a demonstration of STCDC's goal for the tower to represent Shanghai's "pursuance of excellence."

To achieve STCDC's third goal for the tower to have harmonious and functional interior spaces, Gensler carried the overarching motif of sustainability and Feng Shui into the core's interior spaces. When viewing the modern office, retail, and luxury accommodations, there is an evident use of organic forms and natural materials. In the retail areas of the podium, the designers incorporated a stunning use of layered wooden gills that continue up the walls and across the ceiling. In-between each of these gills is integrated lights to provide the interior space with a bright ambient glow.  In the retail podium, the natural tones of the wood and translucent blue glass compliment the bright colors of each leased space.

For the office spaces in zones two through eight, this same use of natural materials and bright colors continues. Reminiscent of the sustainable and functional characteristics of Scandinavian design, the office spaces support an inspiring sense of calm (Smith, 2018). The pristine polished cement floor and metal paneled ceiling provide this immense harmony between human-made and natural materials. Each large open floor plan segments by light wood built-ins allowing light to pour through the perimeter of the core. The furnishings which use the same light-wood material serves both functionality and the office aesthetic. Similarly, to the retail podium, the interior design of the office spaces incorporates the use of bright colors.

A symbol of this transformation of spaces in Shanghai Tower is the 52nd-floor Duoyun Bookstore (The Cool Hunter, 2019). This store, which spans the entire 24K square foot level, integrates the motif of the building's fluid form. The sections of the store feature white bookshelves with integrated arches allowing natural light to enter (China Daily News, 2019). From the core's interior, the store opens into the green spaces transformed into "reading gardens," (The Cool Hunter, 2019). Due to the functional layout of the area, the 52nd-floor embodies the tower's mixed-use model as the store becomes a cultural center, restaurant, and communal place for the tower's occupants.

The combination of these thoughtfully designed core interior spaces, such as the Duoyun Bookstore, will prove to support a harmonious relationship between the occupants and the structure itself. In every facet of the tower's design, Gensler was able to achieve the goals Shanghai's Urban Planning Bureau and STCDC set forth when initiating the project. The "vertical city," that is, Shanghai Tower, will redefine how China and other countries conduct city redevelopments. Shanghai Tower proves that sustainability, urban density, and maximizing functionality can be solved simply through design. As Xia stated in an interview with AZO Build, that with the Shanghai Tower, the Lujiazui Financial District will now "serve as a stunning representation of our past, our present, and our [China's] boundless future,” (AZO Build, 2019).

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