I’m not one for marking anniversaries, personal or otherwise, not for any principled reason but mainly out of sheer forgetfulness. Perhaps this is why I find it easier to highlight life’s milestones not defined by any date but a result that resonates a little deeper.
Yesterday the Shanghai Tower (上海中心大厦) hoisted its final beam to the top of the skyscraper and work will now focus on the interior of the behemoth. I’ve seen the base of the building and can ensure you the word ‘cavernous’ is an understatement. Standing at 121 stories, around 632 metres (2,073 ft) high and 380,000 m2 (4,090,000 sq ft), the Shanghai Tower is expected to be completed in 2014.
Since arriving in Shanghai in 2008, I’ve walked by the site almost everyday. In 2009, my office moved into the nearby Shanghai ifc building where I used to stare down at the Shanghai Tower. Since then, I’ve watched it sprout from its circular foundation to a coherent metal structure, outfitted by massive glass panes and finally take shape like a glossy tube twisting in the wind.
In autumnal evenings the lights of the workers’ dormitories flickered through open windows and men gathered to watch television, play cards or chat in the make-shift corridors. During the coldest and darkest of Shanghai winters, you could still see welding sparks flying around the Tower at 9pm, signifying the workday had yet to be over for some. In torturously sweltering summer evenings, the workers – engineers, excavators, builders – would stand shirtless by the pavements watching cars and tourists come and go. It was only a few years ago I would hang out at the entrance of the building site in the wee hours of the morning and watched workers scarf down breakfast prepared by food hawkers who arrived like clockwork to feed and fuel. At 8am on a Saturday, they trooped off into the bowels of the Tower while I stumbled home to sleep.
As the building jutted up into smoggy and sometimes clear blue skies, every passerby whether on foot or in a tour bus, would pull out a phone or camera and snap away, awed by how the Shanghai Tower seemed to dwarf its surroundings. After work, I weaved through tourist clusters and outstretched arms on the dusty pavements of Lujiazui, occasionally betraying my own enthusiasm of what the Shanghai Tower has come to signify. Every few weeks, I would took a photo of the building from my desk or during my walk home, and send it to family and friends abroad. Look, I said. Just look.
And so I’ve been in this city for more than four years and the Shanghai Tower would have taken around five years to complete. I also realized that since the blog had started in January 2010 (I started shooting in late 2008), I’ve written 270 posts, inaugurated by the story of the Han sisters, piecing together the history of the former Wu Tingfang residence, meeting the happiest man in the suburbs of Shanghai, and hand-carried the Roving Exhibit through old neighborhoods.
This entire time, I had forgotten to announce the blog’s anniversaries or mark the 100th or 200th post. But that’s just old, forgetful me. So I thought I’d mark the Shanghai Tower’s milestone as my own.
Thank you for reading. Here’s to more Shanghai street stories.
Hope there are many more posts to come. Always beautiful images and insights. One of my favorite China blogs – marked as a must read on my feedly. Makes me really miss China now that I’m back in the states.
Thanks for such a wonderful compliment, Brian.
Adam Daniel Mezei
Would love to see this particular construction from a number of different angles if at all possible…is it?
Adam, the wiki link in the post to Shanghai Tower has several photos of the tower being constructed in different phases.
You wrote a most charming piece. Thank you. I live in Lujiazui. I’ve also watched it going up and up and up for years. Once I improved my first impression that the building was merely some infernal Tower Of Babel, and stopped imagining just a hive of furious provincial bees, none of whom could make out what the other ones were saying etc., I finally learned to appreciate the wonder of it too. In my case, a function of maturity rather than beauty…but there you are.
So you live in Shanghai then! Lujiazui can be quite frustratingly distant and pedestrian unfriendly, I wish they had put more of an effort to improve the situation. It technically has around the round about and sky walkways linking Shanghai ifc and the rest to provide a pretty view for everyone including tourists. Still, it can be cold and isolating, especially when you can’t get a cab at night, policy makers need to get out of their black Audis and try to flag a red cab, they’ll see some real pain!
I wish you had placed a small camera by your office window in the past four years and did a series a photos everyday… so by next year, you can create a stop motion of the Shanghai Tower! It is not too late to get started though!
I thought about it too! Not that great at time lapse, seemed like such a huge commitment! I got your FB post, have a wonderful journey, I’m sure I’ll catch you soon not here at least in Europe!
Adam Daniel Mezei
I’m on it, white on rice style…I’ll let you know what I think as soon as I’ve had a chance to inspect the merch…
Adam Daniel Mezei
Some seriously revealing snaps there at the Wikipage — I certainly do recall this foundation being built when we’d wandered long down Pu Dong Ave. and gotten intentionally lost far down the road — when most of those establishments, circa November 2009, were entirely vacant…we got lost at night around the warren of ramshackle workers’ barracks being constructed around the foundation of the tower, likely some of the very earliest digs and quality controls — they do archaeological sign-offs in SHA, don’t they, Sue? I even recall stealing a little relief session = too much water during dinner, very nearby…TMI, I know, but just to let you know I had made my contribution to the tower’s eventually sprouting from terra firma…
In any event, do they still have that vaulting curly-cue of a walkway that leads out from Lu Jia Zui and heads towards the Pearl Tower — since it was under construction for Expo when I visited SHA last…and I’m sure things have come a LONG way since then…?