Monthly Archives: August 2011

Shanghai World Financial Center

Completed in 2008, the Shanghai World Financial Center is currently the tallest building in China, and third tallest in the world. The building is located in Pudong, East side of the Huangpu river, across the street from the second tallest building in Shanghai, the Jin Mao tower.  Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates P.C. (KPF), the tower holds retail and restaurant space, a media center, office space, forum space, sky lobby, the Park Hyatt Shanghai hotel, a sky arena, and an observatory level complete with partial glass floors to see the city below. Topping out at 492 meters, 101 stories above the ground, the SWFC is a dominant figure in the Shanghai skyline.  So much in fact, that we had to go and check it out for ourselves.

At the Northwest corner of the Site

We got dropped off by a cab at the Northwest corner of the site.  Even the views from the base of the tower were pretty incredible, so we were very excited to make our way in and up to the top observation deck.

SWFC (left) and Jin Mao Tower (right)

Looking Back to the Pudong Waterfront


Shanghai Tower Construction Site

The entrance fee to make it up to the top was 150 rmb ($23).  You have the option to only pay 100 rmb to get to the sky arena on the 94th floor, but we really wanted to check out the glass floors at the sky bridge on the 100th floor, so we paid the extra fee.  We went at night, just after dinner, and the lines were surprisingly short.  There are so many people in China, not counting tourists, so when you are going anywhere you expect there to be a crowd, so this was a pleasant turn of events.  While waiting for the elevator, you pass this great physical model of Pudong, highlighting the SWFC and the other buildings nearby.

Physical Model of Shanghai Skyline

The elevator takes you up to the 94th floor and from there you take an odd rainbow-colored escalator up to the 97th floor (the bottom portion of the void at the top of the building).

Escalator from 94th Floor to 97th Floor

97th Floor Observatory

Unfortunately, once at the 100th floor sky walk, the clouds rolled in and the visibility lowered a bit, but I still managed to get a few pictures of the Pudong and the rest of Shanghai down below.

Looking Out at Jin Mao and Oriental Pearl Tower

Sky Walk








The Bund

One of the first spots that everyone wants to see when they visit Shanghai is the Bund.  This is a one mile stretch in the Huangpu district, lining the West side of the Huangpu River, consisting of many historical building.  Programatically, most of these buildings are banks, translating architecturally to a classical style.

The Bund Packed with Tourists

This area is most famous though, for taking pictures of Pudong (still within the Huangpu district), the area just to the East of Huangpu River.  This is where you can get a great view of the Shanghai skyline, highlighted by the Pearl Tower, the Jin Mao Tower, and the Shanghai World Financial Center.  Standing on the bund is not only a place for great photo-ops, but there is also a great contrast between the classical foundation of Shanghai on the West side, and the more modern contemporary style on the East side.

Shanghai (Pudong) Skyline from the Bund

In terms of seeing the sights, one of the nice things about going to the Bund, is that it doesn’t cost anything.  You can pick a spot, stay there for several hours and watch the skyline transform as day turns to-night.  We got there just before sunset and got to see the lights come on in the city which was pretty spectacular.  However, if you are looking for a meal or a place to get a drink, this is one of the more pricey areas in the city, so come prepared.

Pudong at Night




Gensler Office

Just two days after our final presentations at Tsinghua, we were ready to begin our internship at Gensler in Shanghai.  We started the day by waiting for the bus (the correct one this time) that we had missed the day before.  The total commute was a little over twenty minutes, ten minutes by foot and ten minutes on the bus.  The bus dropped us off across the street from the building located at One Corporate Avenue in Shanghai.

As you enter the building, you come into this grandiose clear-story lobby space, with elevator cores that serve the lower and upper halves of the building respectively.  On the second floor there are a few commercial spaces like Bank of China, and a Jamaica Blue Cafe.  In total there are twenty floors and our office was located on the ninth floor.

Entrance Lobby

The Gensler office space consumes almost all the area of the ninth floor, so when you get off the elevator, you are practically in the reception area already.  Adjacent to the reception area is a large conference room and the library.  The entrance space bifurcates the rest of the office, which is divided into four program-based studios, work-flex 1, work-flex 2, interiors, and lifestyle.  Each studio is set up to have a studio director and a design director as leaders of each studio. Within that, you have project teams made up of project architects, project managers, senior designers, intermediate designers, junior designers, and interns.

Gensler Lobby

Lifestyle Studio

When you begin to walk around the studios, you can’t help but feel inspired.  Lining all the walls are massive renderings of past, current, and future projects, in addition to physical models on top of desks, storage units, and dedicated display areas.

Physical Models


Display Area

The first day was a little anti-climatic as we spent the majority of the day in new hire orientation.  We got presentations from the HR department, the office librarian, and the IT staff, addressing things like frequently asked questions, CAD standards, and general office know-how.  At the end of the day we got assigned to our desks and project teams, expected to be ready to go first thing the next day.


Lost again….

It didn’t take long to get lost in Shanghai.  We had arrived just after noon, and decided to locate our hostel, drop our stuff off, and attempt to take the bus to the Gensler office for our internship which started the following day.  Not knowing a lot about the geography of Shanghai, we had booked a room at the Blue Mountain Youth Hostel in Luwan for one week to determine whether the location was convenient for the commute to the office.  Once at the hostel, we mapped out our route, which showed that we had a few different public transportation options to choose from, either the 146 bus or 109 bus, both of which picked you up from the same stop.  Our experiment began with a ten minute walk through our new neighborhood.

Hostel Entrance

Quxi Lu

Our hostel was on Quxi Lu (Lu means Road), near the intersection with Luban Lu.  When in Shanghai, you always give directions based on street intersections as opposed to Beijing which was always landmarks.  After a short walk to Mengzi Lu, we waited for a few minutes for the bus to arrive, and even though we had planned on taking the 109, we knew both buses went approximately to the same area so we took the 146 when it arrived first.  All of us were worn out from the long night of travel, especially because we did not sleep well on the “hard seats.”  So much in fact, that we all fell asleep briefly, and ended up passing our stop.  Once we realized what had happened we got off the bus and tried to figure out where we were.  We ended up right across the street from the Shanghai Cultural Center, so we thought this wasn’t exactly a bad thing as we knew we were relatively close to our destination, and some exploring around the office area would proof useful to find some good places to eat, shop, etc.

Shanghai Cultural Center 1

Shanghai Cultural Center 2

It was pretty apparent when walking around Shanghai, that it was quite different from Beijing.  Immediately in Shanghai, you get a feeling that the city has much more of a human scale to it.  Sure there are buildings of all different shapes and sizes, but no matter where you look, the ground level of all the buildings were engaging the street and human activity.  After an hour or so of walking we came across one of the central spots in downtown Shanghai called Tomorrow Square.  Adjacent to the square are many prominent buildings including the Shanghai Grand Theater, the JW Marriot Hotel, Shanghai Porsche Center, the Shanghai Museum, and People’s Park.

Shanghai Grand Theater

JW Marriot at Tomorrow Square

Shanghai Porsche Centers

Once we reached Tomorrow Square, we were all a little frustrated, so we stopped and asked some locals for directions.  They were nice enough to stop a cab for us and give instructions on where we were trying to go.  As we thought, we weren’t too far off (less than ten minute cab ride) until we arrived at our office building.  The building was located right across the street from Xintiandi, this great renovated restaurants and shopping area (, taken off of traditional Shanghainese housing styles.   On the other side of the office was a small man-made lake and park.  When standing in the park and looking back at the office, you can see the Shanghai skyline in the PuDong district, highlighted by the Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai World Financial Center, and the Shanghai Tower (still under construction).  All in all, it turned out to be a great area that we all got to know and love by the end of the trip.

Gensler Office Building from Taipingqiao Park

Skyline of the PuDong District in the Distance




As I was wrapping up my time in Beijing, I was feeling a variety of different emotions.   Sad to say goodbye to all of the people who I had gotten to know over the past four months, but at the same time excited to begin another adventure in a new city in China….Shanghai.

Myself, and the two other students from my program at Roger Williams
University, were headed to Shanghai to begin an internship with Gensler, one of the world’s largest and most successful architectural design firms.  Not only was
I getting a chance to work for a company that I have followed and admired for a long time, but to combine that with how much China and the rest of Asia
are building right now, seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime.

Our final presentations were on a Friday night, which gave us one day to pack up before catching an overnight train on Saturday night from Beijing to Shanghai.  The way that the train system works in China, you can only buy tickets ten days in advance of your departure date.  To reserve the tickets, you had the option of going to the train station in person (where most of the time there is no English) or paying a local agency to go to the station for you.  Judging by our student budgets, we elected to go in person ourselves, which of course is an adventure in itself.  We showed up a few hours after the office had opened (ten days before our departure date), and everything was already sold out except the “hard seats.”  We were hoping for “soft sleepers,” where you have a private cabin with four beds; sleep all night, waking up ready to go.  But, I guess that is why you pay a little extra and go with the agency. They still have to buy the tickets in person like everyone else, but they pay people to make sure that they are the first in line wherever tickets are sold.

At first you wouldn’t think the hard seats to be a problem, sure it’s a 14 hour train ride which is pretty long to be sitting anywhere regardless of where it might be, but at least we had seats, how bad could it be?  As we got through the gates and were walking toward our train car, we noticed a man selling what looked like tiny folding chairs.  People who did not have “hard seat” tickets could get a cheaper ticket to stand in the aisle…for 14 hours!  It turned out that not only were all the soft sleepers, soft seats, and hard seats sold out, but the aisles were packed with people sitting, lying down, standing, and all their luggage.  In order to make it from our seats to the bathroom, it was like navigating through landmines, avoiding bags of luggage, folding chairs, chinese families, and all their breakfasts.

Our seats were just as packed as the rest of the train, but we had some interesting characters around us.  The man who sat across from me was built like a freight train.  After some hand signal communications, I figured out he was a boxer from Thailand.  He was extremely friendly and even had a little carry-size boom-box which he loved to play techno music at high volume.  Judging by the size of him, no one really argued.  By the end of the journey, we were joking around and he insisted on arm wrestling me.  Needless to say he destroyed me…twice.

After a long evening, night, and morning, we arrived in Shanghai just before noon.  I have to say that the train ride from Beijing to Shanghai, was an experience I will never forget. If you have the opportunity to take a hard seat or standing room ticket on a train in China, you are guaranteed to be uncomfortable for the majority of the ride, but you will definitely leave the train with some great stories.