Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Shanghai Expo and Meetings

May 2010 by Antony Wood

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It would take two whole days to walk around the Shanghai Expo site, experiencing the 100+ pavilions from the outside only. Factoring in the incredible interest from the Chinese populace at this event and thus the 2+ hour queues evident at most pavilions, it would probably take two weeks to experience everything thoroughly. There have been many ‘World Fairs’ since the London Great Exhibition of 1851, but I’m not sure there’s ever been anything created on this scale. To say it is huge is a gross understatement, spanning both sides of the Huangpu river over a large chunk of Shanghai.

View of the Shanghai Expo

I was visiting Shanghai at the kind invitation of KONE Elevators who were the sponsors of the Finnish Pavilion and had arranged a week’s program inside the pavilion to honor "Major Projects Week." Speakers included Simon Jenner of Hines UK; Ren Tianxiao, President of the China Elevator Association; Steve Edgett of Edgett Williams Consultants; John Whitfield of Whitfield Rose; and Johannes De Jong of KONE, and I’d been invited to balance up the vertical transport presentations with some crystal ball gazing on where tall buildings are heading (or needing to head!) into the future. It was an excellent few days, giving attendees the opportunity to engage in some of KONE’s latest products/technologies in vertical transport, as well as the presentations from expert speakers and, of course, the wider Expo beyond the Finnish pavilion.

KONE’s Executive Director of Major Projects, Ari Lehtoranta, in a special elevator at the Shanghai International Finance Center

CTBUH and KONE tour the International Finance Center’s lift machine room

Finnish pavilion, sponsored by KONE

Though I will inevitably be accused of bias, given my UK roots, and despite the incredible scale of the China pavilion which suitably dominates proceedings, I have to say that the United Kingdom was (note: I should really use the word "is" since the Expo runs until October 31st 2010) by far the best pavilion. Though many of the pavilions are sublime architectural creations – Spain, Korea and Denmark amongst them – I was mostly disappointed with the interiors of the pavilions I did manage to get inside, since they had mostly resorted to naff "indigenous" product exhibits and vacuous video presentations to project their country’s culture. The United Kingdom pavilion was starkly different – a huge "hedgehog" of a pavilion by Thomas Heatherwick architects consisting of a thousand light rods transferring light from the exterior to the interior of the pavilion where each rod contains an agricultural "seed," transported from the seed banks of Kew Gardens. Reflecting the great British love of gardening, the UK pavilion had succeeded where many of the pavilions had failed; to capture some quintessential essence of the country’s culture, and give an experience to the visitor into the bargain. I, for one, was impressed.

China’s Shanghai Expo pavilion UK’s Shanghai Expo pavilion
Denmark’s Shanghai Expo pavilion Korea’s Shanghai Expo pavilion

So I had an excellent two days in the company of KONE and the Shanghai Expo but, with the competing demands of work pressures that we all face, I could hardly justify a 10,000 mile trip to Shanghai for an architectural "jolly," even if it did include a presentation to some of the world’s leading elevator suppliers and consultants. Thus, after the two days at Expo the real work began. Joined by CTBUH Chairman Professor Sang Dae Kim from Seoul and CTBUH Country Representative for China Professor Guo-Qiang Li from Tongji University, the three of us (and Prof. Li’s colleague Dr. Lu) then had an intense two days of meetings to establish a presence for CTBUH in China, and lay the foundations for the CTBUH 9th World Congress, anticipated in Shanghai in October 2012.

Shanghai skyline

We have known for some time amongst the CTBUH executive committee that we need to engage in a stronger dialogue with China, since there has been so much tall building activity in the country. The language difference has been a significant barrier to a more active CTBUH in this incredible region and thus the recent appointment of Professor Li as Country Representative for China has, literally, opened up a whole new world to us. The tall building facts in China are incredible; currently four of the ten tallest buildings in the world are located in China, as well as an incredible 33 of the world’s 100 tallest buildings. Additionally, of the 44 supertall buildings in existence around the world today, 14 are located in China. Perhaps most impressive is the speed with which China has entered the world of tall; twenty years ago only one of the tallest ten and two of the world’s tallest 100 buildings existed in China.

If the response from our meetings during the week in Shanghai is anything to go by, the CTBUH has a bright future in China. Professor Li set up meetings with the top people at several tall building-related companies within Shanghai and, without exception, each was extremely interested in the work and output of the Council and agreed on the spot to join the CTBUH and support the Shanghai Congress. Our meetings included:

•    a tour of the Shanghai Tower site now under construction, as well as a meeting with the Director of the project, Mr. Jianping Gu from the Shanghai Tower Construction & Development Co Ltd, kindly facilitated by Jun Xia and colleagues from Gensler Shanghai;
•    a tour of the Shanghai World Financial Center, including the highest observation deck in the world, followed by a meeting with Mr. Yoshimori, Director of the Mori Corporation China, and other colleagues at the Mori Corp (who are already Supporting Contributors of the Council);
•    a meeting with Mr. Jun Jie Zhang, Chairman of the Board, and other colleagues at the East Asia Architectural Design & Research Institute Co Ltd;
•    a meeting with Mr. Li Ya Ming, Chief Engineer of the Shanghai Institute of Architectural Design & Research Co Ltd;
•    a meeting with President Mr. Ding and other colleagues from the Architectural Design & Research Institute of Tongji University Co;
•    a meeting with Mr. Qingguo Fan, Chief Technical Officer of the Shanghai Construction Group;
•    a meeting with Mr. Mingxuan He, Vice General Manager  of Baosteel Construction Co Ltd; and Mr. Ground Chen, Vice President of the Jinggong Steel Building Group.
•    a meeting with Mr. Sam Lee, Director  of the Shanghai Xian Dai Architectural Design Group Co Ltd

CTBUH meets Shanghai Tower team. Left to right: Weimin Zhou, Vice General Manager, Shanghai Tower; Professor Guo-Qiang Li, Tongji University / CTBUH Country Representative China; Antony Wood, CTBUH Executive Director; Jianping Gu, Director / General Manager, Shanghai Tower; Professor Sang Dae Kim, Korea University / CTBUH Chairman; Grace Zhu, Admin Director, Shanghai Tower; Jun Xia, Gensler Shanghai Shanghai Tower’s Director Mr. Jianping Gu presents CTBUH Chairman Professor Kim with a commemorative plaque
Site inspection of Shanghai Tower A rendering of Shanghai Tower
Mori Building China’s President Mr. Akio Yoshimura presents CTBUH Chairman Professor Kim Shanghai World Financial Center; the highest observation deck in the world
CTBUH meets Mori Building team. Left to right: Antony Wood, CTBUH Executive Director; Professor Guo-Qiang Li, Tongji University / CTBUH Country Representative China; Professor Sang Dae Kim, Korea University / CTBUH Chairman; Takahiko Raijo, General Manager, Town Management Division, Mori Building China (Shanghai) Co Ltd. Lunch with Architectural Design & Research Institute of Tongji University Co Ltd; DJ James J.M. Ding, President; Ren Lizhi, Deputy President / Deputy Chief Architect; Zoe Zhou, Deputy Director / Senior Engineer
CTBUH with representatives from ECADI, including Mr Zhang Jun Jie, Chairman of the Board / Party Secretary (center in photo); Mr Zhou Jian, Deputy Chief Engineer; and Mr Zhou Jian Long, Deputy Chief Engineer CTBUH with representatives from SIADR, including Mr Li Ya Ming, Chief Engineer; Mr Zhang Xing Jian, Vice Chief Architect; and Mr Lin Yu, Deputy Manager, Business Management Department
CTBUH lunch with representatives from the Shanghai Construction Group; Mr Qingguo Fan, Chief Technical Officer, and Mr Hu Yuyin, Technology Center Director

CTBUH dinner with Mr He Mingkuan, Vice General manager of Baosteel Construction Co Ltd, and Mr Ground Chen, Vice President of Jinggong Steel Building Group

As stated, all the companies/colleagues confirmed their intent to join CTBUH, and become involved in the Shanghai World Congress. The inclusion of these organizational members within our network would be a very big boost to our operations in China indeed. As to the Shanghai Expo, there are still several months to experience it, for those that can visit. Don’t forget to visit the UK pavilion, and leave several days if you really do want to see things in detail.....

Note: Professor Kim and I went on to Seoul after our Shanghai visit, for several days’ meetings to kick-start the organization of the anticipated CTBUH 2011 Seoul Conference. For a separate report of this visit, click here.

Acknowledgements: I would like to acknowledge the kind support of KONE in sponsoring my trip to Shanghai and Seoul, which has allowed CTBUH to increase its exposure in China, and progress plans for the upcoming CTBUH Seoul conference 2011 and 9th World Congress Shanghai 2012. I would also like to recognize the significant efforts and energies of Professor Li and his colleague Dr Lu in facilitating our Shanghai meetings, and Professors Sang Dae Kim, Kim Young Ju and the Korean CTBUH in facilitating my Seoul visit and our numerous productive meetings there.