Gensler is a multinational architecture firm with the highest revenues and largest workforce in the world. Gensler is committed to creating meaningful and lasting change in the communities where they live and work through social responsibility and civic participation.

They are dedicated to developing innovative methods and solutions that will shape the future of design. Currently, their main focus is to build net-zero structures that have less impact on the environment and contribute less to climate change, which is one of the biggest problems. They provide data and analytics to help clients understand their carbon footprint, energy use, performance, and ESG goals. You help clients identify environmental and climate goals and develop climate protection strategies. Their current goal is to build and establish a portfolio of as many CO2-negative buildings as possible by 2030. The Shanghai Tower is one of several structures developed by the company that has received LEED certification.

The Shanghai Towers by Gensler: China’s tallest building - Sheet1
The current skyline of Shanghai_©dezeen

The 632-meter Shanghai Tower, built by Gensler and located next to the Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center in the center of the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone, is China’s tallest structure.

The tower’s translucent, spiral design, as the city’s most visible landmark, shows cutting-edge sustainability solutions and public areas that establish new benchmarks for green communities. Shanghai Tower has Class A office space, entertainment venues, shops, a conference hall, a luxury hotel, and cultural amenity areas across 127 stories. The Shanghai tower has a China Green Building Three Star rating as well as a LEED® Platinum Certification from the U.s. Green Building Council.

The main concept 

Vertical Urbanization is a term used to describe a type of urbanism, Shanghai Tower was built to embrace and energize the city’s vitality. However, rather than parks strewn over the city, the skyscraper offers vertically stacked meeting areas. The building’s distinctive sky gardens make it different from any other highrise ever erected. Shanghai Tower offers a novel experience for living and working in ultra-tall skyscrapers by emphasizing public space and placing stores, restaurants, and urban amenities on the atrium levels.

With a height of 562 meters, it holds the record for having the world’s tallest observation deck within a building or structure (together with the Ping An Finance Center). The Bund, Huangpu River, and the Oriental Pearl Tower are visible from the Shanghai Tower Observation Deck.

Until 2017, it held the world’s second-fastest elevators, with a peak speed of 20.5 meters per second (74 kilometers per hour; 46 miles per hour).It is the highest of the world’s first triple-adjacent supertall structures in Pudong, with the Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center. It is owned by the Shanghai Municipal Government. Its tiered architecture, which is engineered for maximum energy efficiency, has nine distinct zones for office, retail, and recreational usage.

The Shanghai Towers by Gensler: China’s tallest building - Sheet2
The Multi-functionality of Shanghai Tower_©China daily

Major design decisions & challenges in structure

Three major tactics proposed by Gensler’s design team—the tower’s asymmetrical form, tapering profile, and rounded corners—were expected to allow the structure to survive the typhoon-force winds that are frequent in Shanghai.

The Shanghai Towers by Gensler: China’s tallest building - Sheet3
The Public space in Shanghai Tower Image_©Gensler

Gensler and structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti modified the tower’s shape using wind tunnel studies done in a Canadian facility, resulting in a 24 percent reduction in building wind loads. As a result, the construction is lighter, saving $58 million in materials costs.

The most energy savings will come from the structure of the building itself, which will be efficient and cost-effective.

They created more than 20 design solutions using Revit Structure before settling on a structural system of super-columns with outrigger trusses supported by an inner concrete tower.

To assess the structure’s resistance to wind and seismic stresses, the team continued to iterate the design, including the rotation angle of the building’s cam-shaped outer skin.

The work was certainly worth it in the end.According to Gensler, the building employs 32% less material than a traditional tower, reducing both material costs and energy used to create more steel and concrete.

The triangular and spherical double-skin is, after all, a determined and purposeful design choice. While some office space is lost, it is vital for some of the building’s distinctive features.

Consider thermodynamics. The extra layer transforms the tower into a giant Thermos bottle. As a result, the Shanghai Tower consumes 50% LESS energy than the national average to maintain its ideal temperature. When the outside temperature drops to roughly 7 degrees Celsius in January, the air inside may reach 14 degrees without the need for central heating. Second, the twisting form decreases wind load by 24%. If you’re going to construct anything this high in a typhoon-prone location, that’s critical.

The Exterior Skin

The Shanghai Towers by Gensler: China’s tallest building - Sheet4
The exterior cladding of Shanghai Tower Image_©dezeen

Constructing a complicated building form that had never been seen before necessitated the use of cutting-edge technology. The façade would have been difficult to imagine using typical computer-aided design methods, with over 20,000 curtain wall panels and over 7,000 distinct forms. Gensler, on the other hand, was able to establish a system that balances performance, construction methods, maintenance, and design using parametric software. Lasers were used to take measurements on the site, resulting in extremely close tolerances.

The Shanghai Towers by Gensler: China’s tallest building - Sheet5
Top view of Shanghai tower_©Blackstation

The sustainable measures

The skyscraper was dubbed “the greenest super high-rise structure on earth at this moment in time” by a Gensler spokeswoman in 2013.

Rainwater is collected for internal use, and a portion of the building’s wastewater is recycled. The glass façade of the skyscraper, which twists 120 degrees as it rises, is expected to lessen wind loads on the structure by 24 percent. Although conventional power systems will provide the majority of the tower’s energy, 270 vertical-axis wind turbines located in the facade and near the top of the tower are capable of generating up to 350,000 kWh of supplemental electricity per year and are expected to meet 10% of the building’s electrical needs. The double-layered insulating glass façade, which is made of sophisticated reinforced glass with a high-temperature tolerance, was designed to lessen the demand for inside air conditioning.

Furthermore, the building’s heating and cooling systems are powered by geothermal energy. Rain and wastewater are also recycled to flush toilets and irrigate the green zones of the skyscraper.

The Shanghai Towers by Gensler: China’s tallest building - Sheet6
The landscaped sky gardens where people can relax in open space_©Gensler

After construction issues

The Shanghai Tower has had a slew of issues. The most striking feature is the very low occupancy rate. This was due to several factors. The building’s twisted glass exterior, which was designed to reduce wind loads, resulted in an unsuitable floor plan, requiring tenants to pay for enormous swaths of unused space.


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  2. (n.d.). Urban Planning and Design – architecture and design. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Jun. 2022].
  3. Gensler. 2022. Shanghai Tower | Projects | Gensler. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 June 2022].
  4. ArchDaily. 2022. Shanghai Tower / Gensler. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 June 2022].
  5. 2022. Shanghai Tower Update: Lighting the Building and Preparing it for Occupancy  – Urban Planning and Design – architecture and design. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 4 June 2022].
  6. 2022. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 4June 2022].
  7. Nast, C., 2022. How the Architecture Industry Is Reacting to Climate Change. [online] Architectural Digest. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 June 2022].

Sakshi Jain is a fifth-year architecture student at the Mysore School of Architecture in Mysuru. She believes in creating experiences and exploring - big and small - which explains her love of language. With a rekindled love of reading and a desire to travel, she intends to go places and share her experiences.

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