Shanghai’s Extreme Makeover

Friday, February 8, 2008 22:20
Posted in category The Big Picture

Living in China, one of the most amazing dynamics of China is just how fast cities can be modernized through what at times seems like a mad science of destroying city blocks of low rise buildings

In 1992 Dengxiaoping kicked off hyper growth by saying that Shanghai needs to retake its title as the Pearl of the Orient.

to become the head of the dragon.

to grow, Shanghai needed to build, and Pudong was the only place to build as it was still a flatland left. the problem was (and still is) that Pudong is mud.. soft mud

Quote: Pudong has very soft soil. People call it Old 8 tons because it can only hold 8 tons per square meter. this is a big challenge for all the construction companies and engineers

and as we will see through the next two segments, the jin Mao tower shows that a little mud will not get in the way.

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By far the most interesting portion of this (besides the fact that everything that Jin Mao can be divided by 8.. 8 times). it is the fact that nothing is on solid ground

Like chopsticks in soupy Tofu

The next 4 minutes show how Jin Mao is “stabilized”, and now much question is what would be the impact of an earthquake and liquificaition?

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Part 2 shows the behind the scenes on Jin Mao’s build, and for anyone reading this who played with Tonka trucks and Lincoln Logs as a kid, this is pretty interesting. New technologies to pump concrete up the 88 floors, pressurized safety floors every 12 floors that are fire proof, and 79 elevators / escalators that ride so smooth a coin will balance on edge the entire ride

Cut to the Bund, where its old buildings are called souvenirs of Shanghai’s history. where foreign powers held the city until 1949 where the “Foreign businessman” got hte boot, and the Shanghai Stock exchange was shuttered.

Until the late 1990s where it is decided to build a new exchange… the next building to be profiled. Again, a foreign architect behind the development, this building is one that I once spent a lot of time in, and it wasn’t until this clip that I fully understood.

60 meter unsupported roof. Clean line of site (i.e. no columns) for the entire trading room, and a suspended office block that was built on the ground first and then lifted a half meter at a time.

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Starting off with that same soggy mud being dug from the foundation… where driving concrete piles is like driving a “nail through butter”.. but after 100 million USD, the stock exchanged is opened in 1998 by Clinton

Next, a brief stop by the Peace Hotel (30 seconds) before going back to Pudong and looking at the World Finance Center… where the biggest concern is not the mud.. it is wind, and more specifically, wind from Typhoons that may topple the building…. but what ended up toppling the project for ten years was the 1997 financial crisis

Next it is onto Xiantiandi where old buildings had to go through a minor upgrade… lift the buildings 3 feet and install support, bring in a stable power supply, waste plants, etc..

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Pearl tower. Shanghai’s iconic building.

until the World financial center (yes.. we are going back to this project), where the economy has kicked back and the money is available

To make the building taller, planners move from cement to steel because any extra weight and the building sinks.. but now, earthquakes are a concern…but not as a big of a concern as the hole at the top that was beginning to be associated with the Japanese flag, and the building gets another redesign.

Onto the structure itself where the building is built like a block of legos. Each “cube” can be sustained should another fail, this ensuring the safety of the building.

Some of the cool stuff about the construction of the building is its use of lasers to ensure nothing is twisted or out of whack and fast cranes.

the clip winds up with a lead into World Expo… an event that will redefine Shanghai’s development as much or more than Beijing’s Olympics
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Starting with the Lupu bridge, the bridges load has been gamed to once again fool the mud into not eating the bridge that this supported by 200 piles.

What is amazing about this clip is that the project stopped for 6 months because they could figure out how to put the span together in the middle.

Next.. relocating the people and building the pavilion.. Just another exercise in overcoming many elements in China. Nail houses and China’s largest shipyard included (6 billion USD for the shipyard alone).

Finally, the series wraps up with Shanghai 2020.. what happens when 65% of China’s population become city dwellers. Shanghai could have 12 satellite cities.

for anyone living in Shanghai, this series has provided a little insight into the daily lives of residents here. As I have written about in other posts (here and here), Nanjing road is still only half built. Travel to Huangpu, Luwan, Minhang, Zhabei, and other districts of Shanghai and the building is only occurring at a faster pace. It truly is amazing living here and watching a forest of steel and concrete being constructed, and it will only prove more interested as we inch closer to 2010

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2 Responses to “Shanghai’s Extreme Makeover”

  1. Todd Placau says:

    February 12th, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Dunno man, with Shanghaiexpat getting sued were wondering were all the sordid expats stories are gonna go. Had to happen, China got more corporate and less fun. Enterprenuers are better off in Mexico than here.

  2. Rich says:

    February 12th, 2008 at 12:18 pm


    Not sure about the link between Shanghai Expat and Shanghai’s architecture, but I would strongly disagree on the last comment.

    I know someone in town who spent a few years in Mexico City constantly worried about being kidnapped. He carried a knife everywhere and had strategies about where to sit in taxi cabs.

    For me, the opportunities in China are still to many to leave, and if I were to be judging my stay based on the sordid stories of foreigners at this point… well.. I would take that as a sign that I probably should have left a while back.