Gallery: INTERVIEW: Gensler’s Chris Chan on the Sustainable Shanghai To...


In 2008 Gensler broke ground on the sustainable Shanghai Tower in the Pudong district of Shanghai, China. The tower is currently in construction and it’s one of three supertall buildings in Pudong, including the Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center. The elegant structure spirals up to the sky, and once it is completed in 2014 it will become the second tallest tower in the world — only second to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The 632 meter tall structure is a testament to both modern architecture and the potential of engineering, and it also sets a precedent for sustainable super structures. The tower will take the form of nine cylindrical buildings stacked atop each other, enclosed by layers of glass, and hosting public space for visitors including atriums, gardens, cafes, restaurants, retail space, a hotel, and 360-degree views of the city. The building will also include a rainwater recycling system and a series of wind turbines able to generate up to 350,000 kWh of electricity per year. But most notably, the tower’s glass façade was designed specifically to reduce wind loads on the building by 24%, which means that fewer construction materials are needed (including 25% less structural steel). We recently spoke to Gensler‘s Chris Chan, Design Director and member of the tower’s design team, who gave us some insight on what it has taken to get the Shanghai Tower built, and how Building Information Modeling (BIM) has played a crucial role from concept to construction. Jump ahead for our fascinating interview with Chris!


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  1. Craig Schaffer July 29, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Thanks to Autodesk always.
    Improve yourself Autodesk, specially in Autocad field :)

  2. ddek January 12, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    “Asia’s Tallest Skyscraper”? I’m guessing the Burj Khalifa isn’t in Asia to architects. Editors please!

  3. Waad Serdaneh October 15, 2012 at 8:49 am

    it is a nice idea, the dramatic twisted shape of the building is too beautiful, i like it double facade it so huge and it structure system and how the designer reduce the wind load pressure it so smart.

  4. ImranZaid June 13, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    A very nice and timely interview to highlight the use of BIM in the current construction environment.
    Though the interview covers many basic questions surrounding the efficiency of BIM, however the answers are not so comprehensive to give a good understanding on how various tools and techniques are pulled together to form a coherent, collaborative BIM environment.
    As a reader, I would deeply be interested to know what formats were used to share the information. Also weather one single model was used to bring together information from various consultants and designers. Also, how the contract was drafted which outlined the sharing of model and information with external parties.

    The second last question asked was also very interesting about how BIM helped trouble-shooting and reduced RFIs, but the answer is not very satisfactory. It is quite understandable that some of the information might sill be very confidential, but hey in this world of ‘technology’ and buzz word of ‘collaboration’, no new techniques or method may remain unique for long time, hence it is better to share and be praised.

  5. A.L December 21, 2011 at 12:33 am

    In a world where we often hear about iconic towers that read mainly to height and spectacle, it takes a special person to design a building that is truly sustainable and sensitive to environmental conditions. Having interned with Chris, it is no surprise in see that Christopher Chan was involved with this precedent setting tower. He’s truly inspiring and one of the best mentors any student can have. Looking forward to seeing what Chris has in store next :)

  6. Jessica Dailey December 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    It seems like supertall skyscrapers are popping up all over the place these days, so I appreciate that you made it a point to ask Chan specifically about the tower’s height. He points out that it’s not necessarily the recognition of being supertall that’s important to them, but it’s the fact that this building will be “the most sustainable super-tall tower in the world.” Personally, and I’m sure a lot of other readers will agree with me, I think that title is even more impressive than simply being the world’s tallest building.

  7. kestrel December 15, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    The way that the designers incorporated wind tunnel feedback into the construction literally blows my mind. Sustainability in unexpected ways – allowing for the reduction of materials necessary in the structure by truly researching the building’s surroundings.

  8. dan mendes December 15, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    the shape of this building is absolutely beautiful and it’s nice that it servers a function with the surrounding winds

  9. Brit Liggett December 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    This is a truly incredible feat of engineering. Thanks for giving us a look into the multi-layered software based approach that was taken in this building. The new age of architecture is upon us!

  10. Rebecca Paul December 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Wow this building is unbelievable. It’s amazing how computer software (BIM in particular) is elevating our design capabilities, especially when it come to architecture

  11. Lori Zimmer December 15, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    I can’t wait to go to Shanghai!

  12. Yuka Yoneda December 15, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks for this informative interview. It’s nice to see the building from the point of view of the architect who designed it.

  13. Laura K. Cowan December 15, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Gosh, if they can power this with geothermal, hopefully I can retrofit my home with a similar system in the next few years. Still too expensive, but I love how these kinds of buildings show the way and help lower the cost by taking green building mainstream.

  14. JasminMC December 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous!

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