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Shanghai World Financial Center

Add:100 Century Avenue

Tel:021-5878 0101

Time:8am-11pm (last entry at 10pm)


Curved and covered entirely in glass, the US$1 billion building opened in August 2008, reflecting the sky by day and the lights of Pudong New Area by night. It is the second of three skyscrapers envisioned for the area, including the Jin Mao Tower, now the second-tallest in Shanghai. It covers 381,600 square meters, has 64 elevators and escalators, 70 floors dedicated to offices, 14 to hotel space, and the rest to entertainment and observation decks. Even on a foggy day, when standing on the world’s highest observation deck, visitors feel they are standing in the clouds half a kilometer above the city.

The building was funded by Japanese developer Minoru Mori and took 14 years to complete. It was halted twice, once during the Asian financial crisis, and again for a redesign to make it taller. Also known as the Mori Building when it was first envisioned by the Japanese Mori Group, the building originally was to have 97 floors, surpassing the Petronas Towers in Malaysia. Mori brought in veteran skyscraper architects, the American firm Kohn Pedersen Foxx. The company designed the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC, the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, and Plaza 66 on Shanghai’s Nanjing Road W.

Construction was halted when the Asian financial crisis hit in 1997, but it resumed in 2003. Another problem arose. The original design called for a circular opening, like a moon gate, at the top of the tower, not a trapezoid. In 2005 there were complaints that the circular opening might suggest the Japanese rising sun emblem, and architects went back to the drawing board to come up with the bottle opener.

The observation decks for the Shanghai World Financial Center have their own entrances on the ground level and to the side of the actual skyscraper. A ticket costing 150 yuan (US$22) lets visitors enter the 94th-story Sky Arena, the 97th-floor Sky Walk and finally the 100th-floor observation deck, Sky Walk 100. Those who only want to visit the lowest deck pay 50 yuan less.

On entering, visitors can watch a pre-show that features cartoon characters flitting across a spinning, glowing replica of the building to the sound of ambient electronic music. It was designed by artist Toshio Iwai, known for his work on Electroplankton, a Nintendo DS game involving similar characters. After the pre-show, visitors take the first elevator and another light show is projected on four screens and the ceiling. The music speeds up.

It takes a good minute before the lift finally reaches the Sky Arena on the 94th floor, the lowest of three observation decks. The area is like a lounge, with high ceilings and spectacular views. A bar at one end serves refreshments; souvenirs are also sold.

Crossing the area, visitors can take the escalator to the 97th floor, the Sky Walk, the second viewing area, a long walkway painted white. The area is dazzling and looking upward through the glass. Visitors can see the final destination, Sky Walk 100, at 474 meters, the ultimate observation deck.

One last elevator takes visitors three more levels up. Unlike the lower deck mainly decorated in white, the highest deck is filled with mirrors. Wherever one looks, the skyline is reflected. From here visitors can appreciate the two other Shanghai giants, the 468-meter Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the 421-meter Jin Mao Tower.

From Sky Walk 100 visitors can stand on glass flooring and look at other tourists below on the 97the floor, the Sky Arena. It’s a bit scary, but each glass floor can withstand the weight of three 78.5-kilogram viewers jumping up and down.

Given its height, the building does sway in heavy weather. To counteract the movement, two, 150-ton counterweights, or dampers, are suspended on the 90th floor. They move with and against the wind and can reduce movement by up to 40 percent, even during typhoon conditions.