Shanghai Tower

Shanghai, N/A / China

Shanghai Tower is the new symbol of Shanghai—a gateway to China and Asia. The 121-story tower speaks to Shanghai’s place in the world order and to its transformation as a global metropolis. Yet its impact extends beyond its role as an icon for a global financial capital.

Designed by a local Shanghai architects, with a core team from the firm’s Chicago office, the 632-meter-high (2,073 feet) mixed-use building completes the city’s super-highrise precinct planned in 1990. Taking inspiration from Shanghai’s tradition of small-scale courtyards and neighborhood parks, the tower recasts them in high-density urban form.

Shanghai Tower is comprised of nine vertical zones, which organize the building’s mixed-use program. The tower meets the ground with a six-level retail podium that houses shops, restaurants and cultural/events spaces. It also connects underground to a busy transit station.

Above the retail podium, five zones of the building (about 70 floors) are dedicated to Class A commercial office space. The next two zones will accommodate a luxury hotel. Topping off the tower are the observation levels, and on the 121st floor, an open-air observation deck. A rooftop attraction for visitors is the tuned mass damper, a 1,000-metric-ton (1,100-ton) counterweight that improves occupant comfort.

The design incorporates two independent curtain walls. The space in-between forms the sky gardens that are placed vertically every 12-15 floors throughout the building. These light-filled atria serve much as plazas and squares do in traditional cities.

During the design process, the architects anticipated that three key strategies—the tower’s asymmetrical form, its tapering profile and its rounded corners—would allow the building to withstand typhoon-force winds that are common in Shanghai. Using wind tunnel tests, the architect and structural engineer refined the tower’s form, reducing wind loads by 24 percent and saving $58 million in structural materials.

Architect of Record


Associate Architect

Architectural Design & Research Institute of Tongji University


Shanghai Tower Construction & Development Co., Ltd.

General Contractor

Shanghai Construction Group


  • Thornton Tomasetti
  • Cosentini Associates
  • SWA