On August 3, construction workers in Shanghai laid the last beam in what will be yet another towering spike in a Chinese urban skyline. At 632 meters (2,073 feet), the Shanghai Tower will be the country’s tallest building, and second highest in the world when it is completed in 2015. (Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, at 828 meters, is currently the tallest.)
But that’s if the tower in Shanghai’s financial district can stay ahead of a race within the country to build ever taller skyscrapers. An 838-meter-tall building named “Sky City” under construction in Changsha is supposed to be up by 2014, but has been delayed several times. In Shenzhen, the 660-meter Ping An Finance Center is slated for completion in 2016. Last year, China built 22 buildings that were taller than 200 meters, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Habitat, the most of any country in 2012.
Skyscrapers have been sprouting across China over the past two decades, serving as signals of economic progress for various cities and provinces. But the latest building craze comes at a time when the Chinese economy has slowed to a pace economists say may be the new normal. Ghost towns, empty shopping malls, and rising vacancy rates suggest that more construction isn’t what China needs right now. (Some note that ambitious skyscraper projects actually precede an economic collapse.) But Chinese builders are plowing ahead. As we’ve noted, five other skyscraper projects, aside from those in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Changsha, are in their planning stages (link in Chinese).
The projects are impressive at least in their ambition. The Shanghai Tower, designed by the architectural firm Gensler, will be made up of nine glassy, cylindrical buildings stacked on top of each other. It will feature the world’s fastest elevators, designed by Mitsubishi, which will travel at 40mph, according to a statement from Gensler. Part of the tower will be able to rotate 120 degrees to mitigate the effects of wind. The company behind the tower expects to lease the space for offices, stores, a hotel, and cultural venues. Gu Jianping, president of Shanghai Tower Construction & Development Co told reporters (paywall) at a press conference over the weekend, “We’re planning to start operations in 2015, and I believe the economy will improve by then.”
Here are some photos of Shanghai Tower: