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23 October 2017

A Global Perspective on City Planning

From time to time we see and experience things that blow our minds.  

Having recently been given the opportunity to visit China for a fourth year running - with many thanks to an incredibly generous client of Shanghai heritage, and alongside the accomplished CBG Architects and a fellow colleague, Claire Helfer – I have found each of these trips to be invaluable to step out of the ‘bubble’ of Melbourne and to gain a global perspective on city planning.

In this piece I have chosen to highlight two standout developments found in Shanghai which show that the economic ‘engine room’ of China also boasts some architectural marvels that are as innovative as they are inspiring when it comes to environmentally sustainable design.

‘1000 trees’

Pictured to the right, the ‘1000 trees’ project reimagines the urban environment in a remarkably unique way.   Designed by renowned London based architects Heatherwick Studio, what really sets this development apart are the 1000 structural columns that emerge into the skyline with mature trees atop – creating the impression of a ‘tree covered mountain’. 

Within lies a 300,000sqm mixed use development including shopping centres.  A total of 400 ‘open air’ terraces are integrated into the finished design to promote outdoor leisure and meeting places for its users.

Encompassed by the vast concrete jungle of Shanghai, a development of this kind truly stands out and demonstrates the opportunity to employ innovative ways to ‘green up’ our cities. 


Shanghai Tower

Also pictured to the right, rising 632m into the skyline of Shanghai’s financial district the Shanghai Tower sits comfortably in the category of a mega tall skyscraper.  Maxing out at 128 storeys (more than double the height of Eureka Tower), the build cost of $2.4B is over 50% above the value of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. 

Shanghai Tower lays claim to being one of the ‘greenest’ super towers on the planet. Most notably:

  • Wind load is mitigated by 24% owing to the 120 degree twist as the tower rises, thereby reducing the amount of construction material by a quarter.
  • Energy performance and thermal control is controlled by the reflective glazing used for the outer skin of the building – which creates a cavity that functions much like a thermos bottle 
  • Lighting is powered by 270 wind generators.

A common criticism of mega tall towers is the remoteness from the amenities of street life and the time it can take to travel to and from the top levels.  The Shanghai Tower, however, is made up of nine cylinder buildings stacked atop each other with each of the nine zones containing its own atrium, feature garden, cafes and retail.  A high speed lift (the tallest on the planet) enables shorter travel times to the top in less than a minute.

If you would like to discuss the above projects, or share your own experiences of China or cutting edge ESD projects from around the globe, feel free to drop me a line on 9429 3111 or get in touch by email at

Nǐ hǎo!

Robbie McKenzie

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