BEIJING | The 121-story Shanghai Tower is more than China’s next record-setting building: It’s an economic lifeline for the elite club of skyscraper builders. Financial gloom has derailed plans for new towers in Chicago, Moscow, Dubai and other cities. But in China, work on the 2,074-foot Shanghai Tower, due to be completed in 2014, and dozens of other tall buildings is rushing ahead, powered by a buoyant economy and providing a steady stream of work to architects and engineers.
The U.S. high-rise market is “pretty much dead,” said Dan Winey, a managing director for Gensler, the Shanghai Tower’s San Francisco-based architect. “For us, China in the next 10 to 15 years is going to be a huge market.
China has six of the world’s 15 tallest buildings compared with three in the United States, the skyscraper’s birthplace — and is constructing more at a furious pace. India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have ultra-tall towers under construction or on the drawing board. In the Gulf, Doha in Qatar and Dubai site of the current record holder, the 163-story Burj Khalifa — have three buildings each among the 20 tallest under construction, though work on all but one of those has been suspended.
The shift is so drastic that North America’s share of the 100 tallest buildings will fall from 80 percent in 1990 to just 18 percent by 2012..
In China, skyscrapers are going up in obscure locales such as Wenzhou, Wuhan and Jiangyin, a boomtown north of Shanghai. It is building a 72-story, 1,076-foot hotel-and-apartment tower that will be taller than Manhattan’s Chrysler Building.
“Governments are encouraging these iconic buildings in order to give a very clear message to the outside world: Please pay attention to our city,” said Dennis Poon of Thornton Tomasetti, the Shanghai Tower’s structural engineers. China has four of the 10 tallest buildings under construction, versus two for the United States — and work on one of those, the 2,000-foot Chicago Spire, has stopped.
The Shanghai Tower will be China’s tallest office tower, surpassing the neighboring Shanghai World Financial Center in Pudong. The 2-year-old WFC passed the Jinmao Tower, also in Pudong, for the title. Tianjin, a port and oil-refining center, is building four towers of at least 75 stories. One of them, the Goldin Finance 117, will be 117 stories and nearly 2,000 feet tall.