Shanghai tower named year's best skyscraper

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Shanghai World Financial Center, the world’s second-tallest building that some say resembles an elegant bottle opener, was named on Thursday by architects as the best skyscraper completed this year.

Shanghai World Financial Centre building is pictured in Shanghai August 29, 2008. REUTERS/Aly Song

“The simplicity of its form as well as its size dramatizes the idea of the skyscraper,” said Carol Willis of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, an international group of architects and engineers.

The Shanghai tower was design by architectural firm Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, which was founded in New York and has offices worldwide.

Architect Tim Johnson, who led the council’s selection committee, cited the building’s innovative structural design. Steel trusses gird against the forces of wind and earthquake and “made the building lighter, made it use less steel, and contributed to its sustainability,” he said in an interview.

The tower’s tapered form creates the impression it is dissolving into the heavens, he added.

The Council on Tall Buildings is the body that determines the world’s tallest building -- a designation that seems to jump around the globe and will soon shift to Dubai.

Willis, who heads New York’s Skyscraper Museum, said there are periodic predictions that the skyscraper is dead but super-tall buildings are back in vogue -- especially across Asia and the oil-rich Middle East and Russia.

Signature skyscrapers have become a tool for cities like Dubai, Moscow, and Shanghai to showcase themselves as global financial centers and provide a comfort zone for executives, Willis said. The towers in Dubai project an image of modernity for the desert capital.

The 2001 terror attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers conjured fears for many about living and working in landmark buildings, but those concerns seem to have largely subsided, the experts said.


Twenty-four buildings of at least 800 feet tall were completed this year, compared to just eight in 2005, according to Emporis, a company that compiles building data. Next year, 47 towers of that height or taller are scheduled to be completed, though the economic downturn could halt construction on a few, the firm’s Daniel Kieckhefer said.

A significant hurdle for the 101-story, 1,614-foot-tall Shanghai tower was a long construction hiatus from the mid-1990s to 2000. Construction resumed after China emerged from the Asian economic downturn. Another hurdle was a revision in the plans for a taller tower with a trapezoidal hole at the top in answer to complaints that a round hole in the original design evoked Japan’s rising sun symbol.

The Shanghai tower was chosen by the group over three newly completed buildings in other regions that received praise: the New York Times Building in New York, 51 Lime Street in London, and the Bahrain World Trade Center in Manama.

The Shanghai tower contains 4 million square feet of floor space (377,000 sq m) to be occupied by some 12,000 office workers on 70 floors, with retail space and a conference center below, a hotel above, and topped by an observation deck.

The tower stands second in height to the 1,667-foot-tall Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan, but both will soon be eclipsed by the Burj Dubai under construction in Dubai. Once its spire is finished, the mostly residential Burj Dubai is expected to soar 2,625 feet into the sky though its ultimate height has been kept a secret.

Developers of another planned residential tower in Dubai say that it will be 1 kilometer, or 3,280 feet, high.

Editing by Michael Conlon and Cynthia Osterman