Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Discovering Asia, from Moscow

23 April - 2 May 2009, Asia


By Elena Shuvalova, CTBUH Country Representative for Russia

Click here to see photos of the Asia Tour.

Hong Kong Skyline
Skyline Hong Kong


The 4th Russian Intellectual Business-Tour devoted to High-Rise buildings (“Asian Pearls: Shanghai & Hong Kong”) was recently  held by the Moscow-based Lobby Agency  with support from  the CTBUH. The Russian tour group had a number of meetings with the most active CTBUH organizational members in these cities, visits to landmark tall buildings and visits to construction sites. But the greatest result of the event was an understanding of the ‘Asian Phenomena’ and  its evident influence to the world’s economy.

Some years ago Shanghai, the 2nd – largest Chinese city  (population approximately 17  Million), beat out Moscow in a  highly competitive competition for hosting the prestigious ‘World-Expo 2010’ exhibition. I strongly wondered why. I didn’t understand this while riding the  smooth Shanghai highways and entering spacious new housing blocks, fashionable hotels and multifunctional complexes. I hesitated even more  that it’s  the right city for a World-Expo while walking through Shanghai’s
poor neighborhoods, where common people cooked “dimsum” (national dish with a very specific smell) right on the ground while the others either slept after a day’s  hard work. Some others peddled  goods to earn money for the family…

But all my doubts concerning Shanghai’s future stepped back when we saw  the great desire of its citizens to work hard (even on weekends) for further positive development. The huge Expo Performance Centre (126.000 sq meters total floor area) is now under construction and will be completed at the end of this year for  the 2010-show. And just 2-3 weeks ago the central government endorsed Shanghai's ambition to transform itself into an international hub for both the financial and shipping sectors by 2020 by promising to authorize groundbreaking policy initiatives in the city's jurisdiction. According to ‘The People's Daily’, Shanghai’s cargo throughput rose 3.6 percent last year to 582 million tonnes, making it the world's busiest port for the fourth consecutive year. 

A general model of the city is exhibited  in the Shanghai Masterplan museum. It can’t reflect all of the changes which are to take place by 2020, but it certainly depicts the most important ones.

Shanghai Masterplan Model Shanghai City Model


Flowing through the center of the city, the Huangpu River  divides Shanghai into the Puxi district to the west and the Pudong District to the east. Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone of the Pudong New Area has been a key re-development site since the 1990s, with a plan to turn the area into a leading world-class financial centre. Covering nearly 1.7 sq km in area, the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone continues to grow as a city within a city, in which the functions and facilities of a financial center are all closely integrated.

Pudong District
Located in the Pudong District is the overall CTBUH Awards Champion the 492-meter high Shanghai WFC building, which is  called a “Global Magnet”. This is in reference to its supposed power  of moving the World. With its 14.400 sq m building site area and 381600 sq m total gross floor area it seems very slender from  a distance, The developer of the project, Japanese Mori Building Company (annual sales 169.6 billion yen for fiscal year ended March 31st 2008),  had enough courage not only to finish the long-term construction but to make it a real chef-d-oeuvre. The company has  further plans for the regeneration of surrounding territories.

According to Tracy Zhou from Mori Building China (Shanghai) Co., a specialist  in the Town Management Division, the company’s plans for further development of this business-district  have been adopted by the City authorities. In 3-5 years the district will see further positive changes, such as eco-friendly structures and green parks.

The Shanghai WFC, with its 5 distinct entrances, is well organized for the differing flows of  visitors. Many are eager to choose the Observatory or Forum entrance. Others choose the Office, Retail or Hotel Entrances. The building is served by a total of 91 elevators,  44 of which are double-deck elevators for smooth and efficient vertical transport.

The highest hotel in the world, Park Hyatt Shanghai, is located in the Shanghai WFC building and  opened last fall. To preserve the traditions of its  luxury brand it contains only 174 rooms on floors 79-84th and on the 88th. Each of  these feature views over the Huangpu River and the Pudong district.

View from Shanghai World Financial Center     Shanghai World Financial Center Observatory
Views over the Huangpu River and the Pudong district
Shanghai World Financial Center Observatory Deck

Wellness facilities, including an infinity pool and a tai-chi courtyard, are located on the 85th floor. “The specific design of different hotel zones  lets our guests enjoy the variety of spacious restaurants and public zones, creating at the same time a very friendly atmosphere”,-says Lillian Zhang, Public Relations Manager for Park Hyatt Shanghai.

But the real pearl of Shanghai WFC is its Observation deck  at the 100th floor (474 meters  high) providing a spectacular view of downtown Shanghai and the Huangpu River below.

Although the Shanghai WFC is a record-holder for now, the platform for a new record is already being laid  nearby. At the beginning of February the ground was broken  for the third of the trio of towers (Jin Mao Building and Shanghai WFC – are the first 2, note by author) in Shanghai’s Luijiazui District. It will be the 632 m Shanghai Tower, designed by Gensler. It will be joining and rise above the Shanghai WFC and the Jin Mao Tower in the Luijiazui Finance and Trade Zone as China’s first ever super-tall district. The building will consist of office space,  a luxury hotel, retail and cultural spaces. It will have access to the Shanghai Metro and  3-levels of underground parking. According to the developer, Shanghai Tower Construction and Development Co., it will be the tallest in China with the highest open air observation deck in the world.

Although  Shanghai’s inhabitants do not have a tradition of  high-end residential complexes, the last 5-7 years have produced  some noted ones. TG Harbour View – a complex of high-end apartments- was built by Aedas company for Top Glory International Holdings within a high-rise tower  It demonstrates new fashion and new demand.
Completed in 2007, the TG Harbour has a gross floor area of 98.000 sq m and is strategically positioned in a prime site with unobstructed views towards the Bund and adjacent to the Shangri-La Hotel and Jin Mao Building.

   During the design process, careful considerations  were given  to the visual aspects,  ensuring that the overall skyline of the Bund, along the historical landmarks and panoramic metropolitan cityscape, would be maintained.

As  Senior Associate of Aedas-Shanghai, Bobby Fung, comments, “TG Harbour View is a typical model of innovative design in which Aedas strives for green design  aspects of full  sunlight, fresh air and flora for residents. They  enjoy an intimacy with nature in spite of living amidst the hustle and bustle. We  followed a ’city oasis’ concept.”

Pool in the TG Harbour View Complex

Viva, Hong Kong!
Many may not consider Hong Kong to be a separate region, but Russian citizens  have to get a separate visa to visit there.  Understanding Hong Kong as an Asian financial capital, it is the  place where big deals happen. We were fascinated by its visible absence of  signs that there is a  crisis: big construction sites are booming and electric lights illuminate the rows of tall buildings every evening.  Hong Kong  has a population of nearly 7 million people and attracted 4-times that  in tourists last year– 29.5 million. Jackie Chan,  a well-known actor, serves as Hong Kong’s Tourism Ambassador.

We spent an unforgettable 2.5 working days  in Hong Kong,  beginning with a strong start  on the day of our arrival. We began with a gulf excursion  that might make us aware of the place and also show us its masterpieces. Then we glided through the dark water to  a native fishing village. Finally we climbed to Victoria Peak in a cable railway, rising at a  45-degree angle. As we ascended we tried to count the skyscrapers, but in vain; there were too many of them.

View over Hong Kong from Victoria Peak
View over Hong Kong from Victoria Peak
    The Hong Kong Country Representative, Aedas’s-Hong Kong director Maxwell Connop, states that it’s one of the regions where the crisis does not seem to be a reality. “Hong Kong is an extremely convenient city”, explains Maxwell. “The transport is efficient, clean, and forward thinking. This network reflects the positive attitude of the Hong Kong people. It also reflects the way business is conducted”. Aedas Hong-Kong is in charge of  many infrastructure projects. These include North Satellite Concourse ( for Hong Kong International Airport) and Sunny Bay Station (modern open air gateway into the magical fantasy of Hong Kong Disneyland).

On the whole, Aedas has played an important role in shaping Asian railways; by 2008 its specialists designed 31 rail stations and 6 depots for 18 railway lines in Asia.

Today, Hong Kong is the largest of Aedas’s global offices, occupying three imposing floors of a landmark commercial building. The visit to the Aedas-Hong Kong office turned into a remarkable event to our delegation. We  exchanged new ideas on design projects and modern technologies and became acquainted with Aedas’s portfolio and strategy.

Visit to Aedas's office Hong Kong Aedas Hong Kong Office
Visit to Aedas's Hong Kong office    Aedas workshop

Walking through the Aedas office we saw piles of music papers. Aedas’s president, Keith Griffits, likes opera very much and so they sponsor the Hong Kong symphony orchestra. Aedas has also invested in Formula-1 (Grand Prix - Macao lap) and many other humanitarian initiatives. It also acts as a regular advisor to Hong Kong’s government on architectural-related issues.

Aedas offices worldwide are also fond of  organizing Global Design summits to discover new  talent for work on the major projects of the company in different countries.

The  last workshop  took place in the Italian town of San-Remo this past March. It was very impressive and our team enjoyed learning about this workshop  greatly. Who knows, maybe a Russian city may become the next  Aedas workshop…

New Heights to gain - Hong Kong Island
Some years ago, Two International Financial Centre (Two IFC) was the highest building in Hong Kong. Now it’s famous  for its unique system of management. It begins at the entrance, where we were met by polite men dressed in guardian uniforms and  had specially trained dogs. The lower level of the Two IFC building has its own control department where different devices accurately survey the building. “We have more CCTV than in Chep Lap Kok international airport”,-  Ms. Molly Chan, Customer Service Supervisor for International Finance Centre Management Co. assured our group. The complex was designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and consists of  two buildings; One IFC at  39 stores (210 m high ) and 4 trading floors and Two IFC at  88 floors (415 m high ) and the only Four Seasons hotel (399 rooms and 513 serviced apartments) in Hong Kong. Nearly 15.000 employees work in the Two IFC complex and the 4-storey giant shopping mall.

View from IFC Langham Place LanghamPlace
View from Two International Financial Centre    Langham Place Complex lobby
   Langham Place Complex Art installation

Another  interesting sight in  Hong Kong is the Langham Place complex (awarded Hong Kong building 2005). It was built in the Mongkok district renovation program.

Today Langham Place is one of the  favorite public places in Hong Kong. The 3-phased building complex (168.000 sq m) contains  Hong Kong’s largest indoor escalator and a fascinating Grand Atrium. Its engineer and Arup’s Hong Kong Director, Man Kang, likes it most of all. The Langham Place consists of a 15-storey (80 m high ) shopping mall, a 59-floor  (255 m high ) Grade-A office tower and a 38-storey, 665-room 5* hotel  on top of a 10-storey podium. This podium is comprised of restaurants, function rooms and government facilities.

Today Hong Kong developers and architects are trying to conquer new heights. The most ambitious project in Hong Kong is the Kowloon Area redevelopment. Kowloon railway station was built almost 100 years ago and now it is a large-scale area of regeneration. 

Visiting this  Kowloon Area was last but not the least part of our trip. To tell the truth, none of the architects and project engineers considered  this trip to be successful if they didn’t manage to visit a construction site. The site of the International Commercial Centre (ICC) at MTR Kowloon Station is a centerpiece of this large-scale development.

Construction Tour of the International Commercial Centre at MTR Kowloon Station

When it finishes construction in 2010, the ICC (118 floors, 484 m high) will become the tallest building in Hong Kong.  Together with the Two IFC (420m) on the opposite shore, they will form a stunning gateway across Victoria Harbour. The main structural skeleton of the ICC is formed from a high strength concrete inner core wall, steel and pre-stressed concrete outriggers  and eight mega columns on the perimeter. The ICC will house exclusive Grade A offices and a world-class hotel at the top. Together with the two remaining packages 5 and 6, also under construction, it will provide a total of 2.5 million square feet of high quality offices, one million square feet of apartments, a one million square  foot hotel (Four Seasons chain had adopted a proposal already) and service apartments above  a 4-storey podium structure containing a one million square foot  shopping mall. Arup is providing civil/structural and geotechnical design for the development.

We finished our tour and  left Hong Kong but had an unanswered question: none of our guides could answer  how many tall buildings there are  in Hong Kong. The most reasonable answer was given by Mr Man Kang from Arup, who suggested that there are more than 1.000 of them if applying the Russian classification system (in Russia a 70 m high  building is defined as a “tall building”).

Global Wisdom of Life
The Chinese never hurry.They are working hard today to be  successful for future generations. The feng-shui aspect very strongly influences their everyday lives. The mirrored door-frames in hotels or elsewhere are supposed to dash away the negative energy visitors bring with them from the streets. “Taboo storey’s”  at the 14 and 24th floors also exist in everyday life, so they are just “missed” while construction progresses.

One of the most attractive trends in modern Asia is taking care of the oldest people. It’s also an ancient tradition. Walking in terms of excursion through You Gardens (Shanghai), our group enjoyed not only the landscape but the very idea of building a big house surrounded by a wonderful garden  for elderly people. We had seen many  elderly people walking down the streets and enjoying the retired lifestyle. The recently announced Chicago skyscraper for retired persons is a modern analogy to You Gardens. This is also a sign of globalization coming to all spheres of our lives.
    You Garden

You Gardens

Note: Lobby Agency and 4th Intellectual business-tour participants express their sincere personal gratitude to Geri Kery and Antony Wood who helped make this tour happen.

Picture Gallery
Click an image below to enlarge. Photos courtesy of Yury Granik (TSNIIEP, Moscow) and Pavel Semikin (Academy of Architecture, Novosibirsk).

Shanghai City Model    Views over the Huangpu River and the Pudong district
   Shanghai World Financial Center Observatory Deck
   Pool in the TG Harbour View Complex
   View over Hong Kong from Victoria Peak
Shanghai City Model   Views over the Huangpu River and the Pudong district   Shanghai World Financial Center Observatory Deck  

Pool in the TG Harbour View Complex

  View over Hong Kong from Victoria Peak


Visit to Aedas's Hong Kong office Aedas workshop View from Two International Financial Centre Langham Place Complex lobby Langham Place Complex Art installation
Visit to Aedas's Hong Kong office Aedas workshop View from Two International Financial Centre Langham Place Complex lobby Langham Place Complex Art installation


Construction Tour of the International Commercial Centre at MTR Kowloon Station You Gardens
Construction Tour
of the International Commercial Centre
You Gardens