Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Guangzhou International Finance Center, China
Posted August 2012
The Guangzhou International Finance Center was recognized as "Best Tall Building Asia & Australasia" in the 2011 CTBUH Awards Program.
Other Featured Tall Buildings

“This is quite simply one of the most elegant tall buildings anywhere in the world. The gently curved façades, diagrid structure and triangulated plan work together to create a harmonious whole.”
- Peter Murray, CTBUH 2011 Awards Juror, New London Architecture Centre

Location
Guangzhou
Completion
2010
Height
439 m (1439 ft)
Stories
103
Primary Use
Hotel / Office


Design Architect
Wilkinson Eyre

Associate Architect
Architecture Design Institute of South China University of Technology (ADRISCUT)

Structural Engineer
ADRISCUT; Arup
MEP Engineer
ADRISCUT; Arup
Project Manager
Yue Xiu Group
Contractor
China State Construction; Guangzhou Municipal Construction Group JV

The slender crystalline form of the Guangzhou International Finance Center is both elegant and clean. This exterior smoothness is contrasted by the faceted glass atrium and great skylight that top the building and serve as a grand space for the hotel—following in the footsteps of such great high-rise hotel atriums as the Jin Mao Building in Shanghai (1999) and the Burj Al Arab in Dubai (1999). 

The tallest of the regional winners this year, the Guangzhou IFC carries its great height with grace. The gentle bowing of the tower in elevation—widest one third of the way up—slowly tapers inward as the tower reaches skyward. Its diagrid structure adds a layer of strength and stability, which is accentuated by clever night lighting, and adds depth to the smooth façade. The helicopter landing pad adds a subtle hat-like top to the composition.


Guangzhou International Finance Center is a landmark tower which defines the emerging international strength of China’s third city and serves as a landmark for Guangzhou Zhujiang New Town’s main axis, which links the commercial district in the north with the Pearl River to the south. At the time of its completion it became the fourth tallest building in China and the ninth tallest building in the world. Its elegant simplicity belies the complex geometry of form and structure which makes it possible.
Figure 1. Guangzhou International Finance Center towering above the skyline of Guangzhou

Each of the three façades of the curved triangular plan are also curved in section with a radius of 5.1 kilometers (3.17 miles) set out asymmetrically with the widest point at a third of the height, tapering to its narrowest point at the top. There is no spire, and the three curved façades continue up beyond the highest floor and, in some views, seems to disappear to infinity. The highest point is a helicopter landing pad which hovers over the central atrium just overhanging the perimeter cladding. The inside of this atrium, with its crystalline geometry, sparkles with abundant daylight and is taller than the height of London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, including its dome.

Its rounded triangular plan responds to the need for efficient internal space layouts and excellent environmental performance. The tower has a mixture of uses including office space, a luxury hotel and a top floor observation area. Office floors occupy levels 2 through 67 and a Four Seasons hotel is on levels 67 through 103. The plan of the building has been designed to provide approximately 165,000 sq m (1,776,045 sq ft) of efficient and flexible office floor plates. These vary in size to allow for larger international tenants; however, the flexible nature of the design also allows for the creation of a series of smaller tenancies on each floor, which is more the typical market condition in China. The office plates have good usable depths from façade to core ranging typically from 11–15 meters (36–49 feet) to achieve good daylight penetration.

Above level 66 (the highest office floor) is the five-star Four Seasons hotel. A health club is located at level 67 above which back of house and kitchen areas have been zoned. The hotel’s main lobby is located at level 70 and is accessed via shuttle lifts serving directly from the ground.

Figure 2. Hotel’s central atrium at top of the tower

The tower has a triple height 12 meter (39 foot) entrance lobby which rings the base of the tower and allows secure access to the building’s double-decker shuttles and standard lift groupings. The main lobby also connects via escalators to a secondary office lobby located at the lower basement level, which in turn allows access to below ground retail and the MTR station. A further dedicated lobby and set down has been formed at ground level for the hotel. At its base, the tower connects with a substantial podium complex containing a retail mall, conference center and serviced apartments. The tower and podium connect to a large retail mall and transport hub below ground, with a retail loop encouraging connections underneath a landscaped central axis.

Figure 3. Detail view with diagrid structure visible behind
Figure 4. Principal podium entrance
The building utilizes the world’s tallest constructed diagrid structure which is clearly expressed though the building’s façade and gives the building considerable character. The diagrid members are formed from concrete filled steel tubes which provide both good stiffness and fire protection to the structure. However, two hour fire protection was still required in order to meet codes and this was trowel applied directly to the building’s primary structure. The tubular diagrid structure “nodes-out” every 12 stories to form 54 meter (177 foot) high giant steel diamonds. At the base of the tower the structural members are 1800 mm (70 in) in diameter and reduce in size up the building to 900 mm (35 in) at the top of the building.
Figure 5. Typical floor interior view
The structural core takes much of the gravity load of the building’s floors and is linked back to the diagrid perimeter structure via floor beams to create a stiff “tube-within-a-tube” structural system. The inherent stiffness in the structure minimizes steel tonnage while providing resistance to acceleration and sway, thereby maintaining high comfort levels for the building’s occupants. This stiffness and resistance to acceleration means that no damping of the structure is required.
Figure 6. Looking up at night
The building has been designed to be a low carbon and sustainable building. The shape of the building has been designed to reduce the effects of wind, thereby reducing the necessary size and weight of the structure. In addition to fundamental passive measures such as orientation, sustainable building systems have been incorporated into the design which address issues such as comfort, maintenance and cost while paying due regard to environmental sustainability and energy conservation. These include: solar thermal hot water; air-side energy recovery; heat recovery chiller; ice storage system; desiccant dehumidification; high-rise air discharge pressure CFD analysis; free cooling system; and variable air volume.

Related Links
CTBUH Skyscraper Center Profile:
Guangzhou International Finance Center

Guangzhou International Finance Center was recognized as the Best Tall Building Asia & Australasia Award Winner in the 2011 CTBUH Awards Program.
Download Guangzhou International Finance Center 2011 CTBUH Awards Book section
2011 CTBUH Awards Book

Videos:
Best Tall Building Asia & Australasia Conference Video: Guangzhou International Finance Center

The CTBUH would like to thank Wilkinson Eyre for their assistance with this article. Photography © Jonathan Leijonhufvud, Christian Richters, and Wilkinson Eyre