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Path to the CTBUH 2012 Shanghai Congress: Beginnings…
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Shanghai & Beijing Trip Report
July 2011
by Antony Wood

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It had been eighteen years since I was last in Beijing – courtesy of two days and two nights on a “hard sleeper” from Guangzhou. After four months of travelling overland across Asia in 1993, I originally anticipated staying a month in China. However, having lingered too long in places like Bali and the highlands of Malaysia, I found myself with just a week to spend in this huge country. After – quite literally – getting a slow boat to China up the Pearl River to Guangzhou from Macau, the smart travel option would have been to stay in the south of China and make the most of my time in the mountains of Guilin and surrounds. Yet the lure of the Great Wall and the Forbidden Palace was too strong, so I undertook what two decades later is still the most arduous train journey of my life, to experience the Chinese capital.

Water Cube, Beijing

"Bird's Nest" Olympic Stadium, Beijing

Back then I remember China as a fascinating – but difficult to travel in – country, and Beijing as a relatively underdeveloped, more tranquil  city – certainly in comparison to cities like Shanghai or the special economic zone of Shenzen to the south. Clearly the city was just drawing breath for what was about to happen.

The contrast with Beijing today could hardly be more marked. Other than Tiananmen and similar cultural sites, the city was virtually unrecognizable to me during my recent visit, with skyscrapers and traffic where before there had been largely houses and bicycles. One of the things I did during my couple of days in the city was to take the new modern metro to see the Olympic “bird’s nest” Stadium and Water Cube (both fantastic pieces of architecture but now lying beneath a layer of dust and seeming neglect). This trip on the metro was a revelation to me – especially in comparison to that hard sleeper all those years ago. With even the walls of the metro tunnels alive with LED advertizing screens racing outside of the metro windows as we sped by, I felt like I had inadvertently slipped into a  scene from  “Minority Report” or some other “city of the future” film.

Meeting with Architectural Society of China: (left to right) Wang Xiaojing (ASC), Zhang Baiping (ASC), Sang Dae Kim (CTBUH), Antony Wood (CTBUH), Guoqiang Li (Tongji University), and Yushu Liu (Tongji University).

Professor Kim presents Mr. Zhang with a copy of the CTBUH 2010 Awards Book.

CTBUH Chairman Professor Sang Dae Kim, CTBUH Country Representative for China Professor Guoqiang Li, Professor Li’s colleague from Tongji University Dr. Yushu Liu and myself had travelled to Beijing to visit the Architectural Society of China (ASC) and the China Civil Engineering Society (CCES) to inform them about our upcoming 2012 Shanghai Congress, and to ask for their collaboration and endorsement. We met with Mr. Zhang Yan, Secretary General of the CCES, and Mr. Zhang Baiping, Deputy Secretary General and Mr. Wang Xiaojing, Deputy Director of the International Department at the ASC, and I am pleased to report that both organizations seemed supportive of the anticipated event. More formal invitations to collaborate will soon follow.

Meeting with China Civil Engineering Society: (left to right) Yushu Liu (Tongji University), Guoqiang Li (Tongji University), Zhang Yan (CCES), Sang Dae Kim (CTBUH), and Antony Wood (CTBUH).

Mr. Zhang takes Antony and Prof. Kim to the Peking duck restaurant for dinner following their meeting.

The trip to China had started a few days before in Shanghai with a one-day tall building workshop at the Shanghai Days Hotel, organized by Professor Li and Dr. Liu . The event was well attended with about 100 colleagues packing the modestly sized room to hear presentations from twelve colleagues including CTBUH Chairman Professor Kim; myself; Ryuichiro Yoshie of Tokyo Polytechnic University;  Weiping Xu, Chief Architect at ECADI; Enfang Liu, President of SIADR; Liu Peng of Arup;Xin Zhao of TJADRI; Professor Richard Liew of the National University of Singapore; Jian Gong of the Shanghai Construction Group; Xilin Lu of Tongji University; CTBUH Country Representative for Thailand Dr. Pennung Warnitchai of the Asian Institute of Technology; and Professor Guoqiang Li of Tongji University.

Inaugural meeting of the Shanghai 2012 Congress Steering Committee, on site at the Shanghai Tower.

Mr. Gu of the Shanghai Tower Construction & Development  Co. Ltd. presents at the Inaugural meeting of the Shanghai 2012 Congress Steering Committee.

While in Shanghai we had also arranged the first meeting of what will hopefully become the local organizing/steering committee for the Congress, to get their feedback and opinions on the developing plans for the 2012 gathering. The meeting was attended by 25 Shanghai-based CTBUH members (see attendance list below) and was kindly hosted by the Shanghai Tower Construction Development Co. Ltd, in their new exhibition building on the site of the Shanghai Tower in Pudong. With foundation works now complete and the tower core up to about 10 stories, the progress made on the building was a fantastic sight to see – one of the many reasons for choosing  Shanghai as the host city for the 2012 Congress. With the Congress, scheduled for the 19-21 September 2012, it is expected that the Shanghai Tower will have reached the 80-story mark by then.

Prof. Li gives the welcoming presentation at the Shanghai workshop

Delegates at the Shanghai workshop

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the CCTV Building in Beijing, courtesy of Chas Pope at Arup Beijing. Now in the latter stages of fit-out but still very much an active building site, this looping skyscraper is a truly remarkable building. I am not sure there is another building anywhere that manages to combine the interlocking program of spaces, numerous public and private routes through the entire building and, of course, a daring form quite like this building. As we drove out to Beijing airport to return to Shanghai we passed another of my favorite buildings – not unlike CCTV for pushing the  boundaries – Steven Holl’s Linked Hybrid building (the CTBUH “Best Tall Building Internationally” in 2009); with its seven linked towers and sky bridges. With projects like CCTV and Linked Hybrid, as well as the ever-changing skyline that is Shanghai itself, it is already clear that the 9th World Congress Shanghai is going to be a truly remarkable event.

Overall view of the CCTV Building. ©Arup

View of Steven Holl's Linked Hybrid complex. ©Shu He

CTBUH 9th World Congress, Shanghai, 2012
Steering Committee – Inaugural Meeting Attendees, Friday 20th May

Gu Jianping
Grace Zhu
Chen Chao
Hongyu Li
Matthew Chisholm
Antony Wood
Wang Da Sui
Zhou Jianlong
Chen Yong Jia
Jun Xia
Xiaomei Lee
Jeff Heller
Rebecca Cheng
Sammi Liu
Vivian Zhang
Wang Pingshan
Zhuang Jun
Zhang Yanyan
Sheng (Sam) Li
Eric Tomich
Chen Jiliang
Zhu Yi
Robert Pratt
Terence Cuaso
Yushu Liu

Shanghai Tower Construction & Development  Co Ltd
Shanghai Tower Construction & Development  Co Ltd
Shanghai Tower Construction & Development  Co Ltd
AECOM Shanghai
CBRE Shanghai
CTBUH / Illinois Institute of technology
Gensler, Shanghai
Gensler, Shanghai
Heller Manus Architects
KPF China
Shanghai Xian Dai Architectural Design Group
SOM China
Thornton Tomasetti
Tishman Speyer, Shanghai
Tishman Speyer, Shanghai 
Tongji University

On behalf of the CTBUH I would like to thank the Shanghai Tower Development Group, and Mr. Jianping Gu in particular, for the gracious hosting of the inaugural CTBUH 2012 Shanghai Congress Organizing Committee Meeting, and for inviting meeting delegates to lunch in the Jin Mao Tower afterwards. A special note of appreciation goes to the Architectural Society of China (ASC) – Mr Zhang Baiping – and the China Civil Engineering Society (CCES) – Mr. Zhang Yan – for taking time to meet with us in Beijing. Thanks also to Mr. Zhang Yan for treating us to the Peking duck dinner! Our gratitude  also goes to Mr. Chas Pope from Arup for the tour of the CCTV Building. And finally thanks to Professor Guoqiang Li and Dr. Yushu Liu for organizing the one-day Shanghai workshop and for their tireless efforts on behalf of CTBUH in China. I would also like to apologize to Dr. Liu for her very sore feet after touring around Beijing for 8 hours by foot in our quest to see the Olympic facilities and other highlights of the city!