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Famous around the world for its sweeping curves and the huge open trapezoid at the top, the Shanghai World Financial Center is both visually stunning and an engineering triumph. Its complex aerodynamics created a challenge for Otis engineers. The solution only seems simple.
Locals and visitors alike fondly refer to this graceful, supertall building as “the bottle opener,” given its obvious resemblance to a giant bottle opener. For their part, the architects say their design joins “two opposing elements, the heavens and the earth,” represented by the curving sides and the portal at the top.
The portal also serves a functional purpose, to relieve the enormous wind pressure on the 492-metre building, located in Pudong, the bustling financial district of Shanghai.
In another structural innovation, engineers abandoned use of a concrete frame in favor of a diagonally braced frame with outrigger trusses attached to the building’s columns. The technique reduced the building’s overall weight by 10 percent while creating a more transparent design.
Otis engineers worked closely with the customer to overcome what is known as stack effect, created as wind flows through a building's lobby and up the lift shafts. Stack effect can cause noise, vibration and lift doors to malfunction. Using advanced computer modelling, we came up with a solution: Entrance vestibules act as air locks when people enter and leave the building – and keep the wind out.
The tower’s form represents two opposing elements, the earth and the heavens. According to the architects, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, “A square prism, the symbol used by the ancient Chinese to represent the earth, is intersected by two cosmic arcs, representing the heavens, as the tower ascends in gesture to the sky.”
"Pudong is a visually chaotic, competitive environment,” says William Pedersen, chief architect and co-founder of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. “So we wanted it to have a great serenity, to be graceful and elegant rather than active."
The tower features three observation decks, which occupy the floors above and below the tower’s aperture. The highest, on the 100th floor, is 474 metres high. The tower also boasts one of the world’s highest hotels, the five-star Park Hyatt Shanghai, which occupies floors 79 to 93.
Metal replicas of the building that function as actual bottle openers are sold in the tower's gift shop.
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