Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates — The Shanghai World Financial Center isn’t just well known—it’s been making headlines for more than a decade. Its original 1993 design was halted after foundations were completed, just before the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. Subsequent engineering innovations replaced a concrete structure with a diagonal-braced frame with outrigger trusses coupled to the columns of the megastructure. This reduced the weight of the overall building by more than 10 percent and added an additional 32 meters to the building’s height without changing the existing underground work.

The 4.1 million-square-foot tower’s form is derived from a square prism—an ancient Chinese symbol of the earth—intersected by two "cosmic arches," described by the architects as representing the heavens. The resulting mass provides large floor plates for offices on the lower levels (the total office space is 2.4 million square feet over 70 floors). Footprints get considerably smaller on the upper levels, where the Park Hyatt hotel occupies the 79th to 93rd floors. The building’s signature cutout top provides expansive views of the Chinese financial capital from the 100th-floor Skywalk.

The podium at the building’s base incorporates retail, conference space, and other public functions in a design whose overlapping circles, squares, and resulting angles are intended to evoke the same heaven-and-earth dynamic as the tower. The jurors criticized it for its "edge city" qualities, although they agreed to overlook this shortcoming since it’s endemic to the surrounding Pudong district. Aaron Betsky praised it as "one of the most elegant skyscrapers of recent years" while Marion Weiss referred to its memorable form as "the blonde girl." Ralph Johnson admitted his sole experience of the building is observing it from cab rides across the city. He said, "You really can see it’s the tallest building in Shanghai," adding, "it goes from very thin to very wide. Every angle of the tower is different as you go around the city."

Project Credits

Client Mori Building Co. Architect Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, New York—Eugene Kohn (principal-in-charge); William Pedersen (design principal); Paul Katz (managing principal); Joshua Chaiken, Ko Makabe, David Malott (senior designers); Roger Robison (job captain); John Koga (project manager); Michael Bentley, Keisuke Hiei, James Jenkins, Kazuki Katsuno, Americo Soza, Shinichiro Yorita, Christopher Knotz, Kuninori Maeda, Jonathan Wall, Marisa Yiu, Anna Crittenden, Kakuen Lai, Peter Epstein, Chloe Li, Kristen Wiese, Shig Ogyu, Jason Zerafa, Hisaya Sugiyama, Trent Tesch, Mabel Tse, Vicky Cameron (project team) Project Architect and Engineer Mori Building Co. Local Design Institute East China Architectural Design & Research Institute Executive Architect Irie Miyake Architects & Engineers Architect of Record Shanghai Modern Architecture Design Group Contractors China State Construction Engineering Corp.; Shanghai Construction Structural Engineering Leslie Robertson Associates Landscape Design Mori Building Co. Curtain Wall Engineering ALT Cladding Lighting Design Motoko Ishii Lighting Design Fire Safety Rolf Jensen & Associates Wind Engineering Alan Davenport Wind Engineering Group Geotechnical Shannon & Wilson M/E/P Engineer Kenchiku Setsubi Sekkei Kenkyusho Façade Maintenance Nihon Bisoh Co. Size 4.1 million gross square feet