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.