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Jiangxi Nanchang Greenland Central Plaza, Parcel A

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill


Greenland Group

Project Status


Year Completed



2,370,000 sq. feet



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Text by Nate Berg

The twin towers of Jiangxi Nanchang Greenland Central Plaza, Parcel A, were about halfway built when Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) received a somewhat inconvenient request from the developer. Instead of the designed height of 289 meters (948 feet), the towers were to be adjusted, mid-construction, to reach 300 meters (984 feet). “Adding 11 meters to a building that’s already under construction is not necessarily an easy task,” says lead designer Mark Nagis, AIA, who is based in SOM’s Chicago office.

At that stage of construction, there weren’t a lot of options that would pencil out with the building’s existing engineering and load management design. Nagis and his team went back to the drawing board, then to the 3D printer, then to the wind tunnel. After testing the structural loads of their design alternatives, they found a solution in an elegant crown covered with gently angled glass panels. The panels add the desired height and open like vertical blinds to allow the prevailing east–west winds to blow through, load-free.

Completed in January at an official 303 meters (994 feet), the matching office towers are the tallest buildings in Nanchang, the capital of the Jiangxi province in southeastern China. The towers, developed by the Greenland Group, total 2.18 million square feet and anchor a brand new high- and mid-rise district just across the Gan River from Nanchang’s old center.

The towers are conspicuous in the new skyline, and not just for their height. Each one transitions from a rounded square base to a more tubular form in the midsection to a squished cruciform in the crown. Both twist slightly to maximize views over the growing district, a new park, and the old city.

The towers are enclosed in smooth glass held in place by a structural sealant. “It’s curving in two directions,” Nagis says. “So it’s a fairly complex surface.” When the project was first sketched out in 2008, SOM’s architects weren’t even sure manufacturers could produce the glass. “The design concept demanded that it be parametrically analyzed from the early stages,” says project manager Michael Pfeffer, AIA. “Our structural engineers were sitting side by side with us the whole time.” The geometry made the prospect of a smooth curtainwall especially tricky.

But by the time they were drawing up construction documents in 2010, the technology had caught up to the dream. Using a process known as cold bending, the glass panels were warped in two directions to accommodate the buildings’ curves. The result is a seemingly continuous surface wrapping the towers like a glass wave. “When you stand back and look at it, it’s a fairly simple building,” Nagis says. “But in terms of its enclosure, it’s very complicated.”

Project Credits

Project: Jiangxi Nanchang Greenland Central Plaza, Parcel A, Nanchang, China
Client: Greenland Group
Project Team: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Chicago . Jeffrey McCarthy, FAIA (consulting managing partner); William F. Baker (structural engineering partner); Michael Pfeffer, AIA (managing director); Luke Leung (director of sustainable engineering); Ross Wimer, FAIA (former senior designer, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill); Mark Nagis, AIA (design architect); Yue Zhu, AIA (senior technical coordinator); Henry Chan, AIA (technical coordinator)
Landscape/Irrigation Consultant: SWA Group
Lighting Consultant: KGM Architectural Lighting
Life/Fire Safety Engineering: Aon Fire Protection Engineering (formerly Schirmer Engineering)
Acoustical Consultant: Shen Milsom & Wilke
Vertical Transportation Consultant: Edgett Williams Consulting Group
Size: 202,797 square meters (2.18 million square feet) (towers); 219,776 square meters (2.37 million square feet) (total)
Cost: Withheld
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