First Publicly Accessible Space in World’s Tallest Tower Opens

The Olympics may be over in China, but the exciting events haven’t stopped there. The highest publicly accessible built space (pictured), part of the tallest building in the world—the 101-floor, 1,614-foot Shanghai World Financial Center, has now opened.

The Sky Walk occupies the buildings 94th through 100th floors of the Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates-designed building, which was developed by Japanese developer Mori Building Co. Glass walls and a glass floor offer views of the Shanghai skyline, downtown streets and the Huangpu River. The 97th floor features a roof that opens to the sky when weather permits, and the Sky Arena on the 94th floor houses exhibition and event spaces.

The building itself will have its grand opening later this year. Below the observatory space, the tower will offer office space, high-end retail, restaurants, and the world’s highest hotel, the 174-room Park Hyatt Shanghai, which occupies the 79th through 93rd floors. The entire complex totals over 4.1 million square feet.

Although the building was originally conceptualized by Minoru Mori, president & CEO of Mori Building, back in 1994, the Asian financial crisis pushed back the development. Finally, four years ago, work began again—and the tower’s design changed, as well as increased from 1,509 feet to its current height. Tall buildings have raised security eyebrows post-September 11, 2001, but William Pedersen, principal Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates of the and designer of the tower, told CPN that building codes in Shanghai are much more stringent than those in the United States—and that was so even before the days of New York’s World Trade Center collapse.

“The codes require that there be a refuge floor every 15 floors,” he explained, likening it to the compartmentalization of passenger ships. “One can either go up or down to be safe. The floors are ventilated from the exterior, and people can wait there until elevators can evacuate them.”

Buildings are also required to have at least three fire elevators to facilitate evacuations. In the case of the Mori Building, there are the required fire elevators, in addition to two elevators that run outside the building from the ground floor to the observation deck. The tower also has a refuge floor every 13 floors.

In addition to being safe, the building’s design is also sustainable—the two arcs and square prism design, which represent the ancient Chinese symbols of heaven and earth, respectively, allows for space efficiencies of large floor plates at the base for the office and rectilinear floors near the top for hotel rooms, as well as the minimization of materials needed for building.

Besides the Shanghai World Financial Center, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates has designed some of the tallest buildings currently under construction: Hong Kong’s International Commerce Center; Singapore’s Marina Bay Financial Center; and South Korea’s Northeast Asia Trade Tower. The latter building is part of Gale International’s $35 billion master-planned Songdo International Business District, where the $150 million, 1.3 million-square foot Songdo Convensia Convention Center, also designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, delivered earlier this month.