Construction of world's largest skyscraper set to resume

Saturday, February 1, 2003

SHANGHAI, China -- China's business capital has long yearned for an architectural landmark to fit its world-size ambitions.

After years of delay, Shanghai may finally get it. Defying unease about eye-catching skyscrapers since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, a developer said Friday it will resume work this month on a glass office tower that will be the world's tallest building.

Construction of the Shanghai World Financial Center started in 1997 but soon stopped as a financial crisis swept Asia.

The site, located in the center of the city's new Pudong financial district, has been a gaping pit ever since.

The original blueprint called for a height of 1,518 feet, topping the current record holder -- Malaysia's 1,483-foot Petronas Twin Towers.

Tokyo-based Mori Building Co. said it has changed the planned height, though the company and the city government refused to disclose the new goal until an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 13.

But "it will be the tallest building in the world," Mori spokesman Toru Nagamori said.

The attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center raised doubts about the future of super-tall buildings.

Other cities -- such as Seoul, South Korea -- have announced plans for record-setting skyscrapers. But after Sept. 11, projects including a tower planned by developer Donald Trump in Chicago have been scaled back.

Experts said concerns about terrorism are a low priority in Shanghai, which is eager to become a business center to rival New York City or Tokyo.

"Nothing less than the world's tallest building is suitable for Shanghai's ambitions," said Lu Yongyi, a professor of city planning at Tongji University in Shanghai. "Sept. 11 seems very remote from China."

Of greater local concern has been the new skyscraper's signature feature -- an enormous round hole through the building near its pinnacle.

A few in Shanghai said the hole resembled the rising sun flag of the building's Japanese developer, raising the still raw issue of Japan's World War II occupation. The city and Mori refused to discuss the criticisms.

On a poster near the construction site, the tower and its hole looked more like a gigantic bottle opener.

The new skyscraper will join a Shanghai skyline already crowded with futuristic buildings, many featuring sections shaped as orbs, discs and other eye-catching geometry.

The building will overshadow its neighbor, the 88-story Jinmao Building -- China's tallest skyscraper and the third-tallest in the world.

Most of the new tower will be office space, though 10 floors near the top will hold a hotel. Nagamori refused to say how much, if any, of the building's planned space had been leased.

Lu said the building should have no trouble finding tenants, since demand remains high in Shanghai for first-class commercial space.

Still, some Shanghai landmarks have boosted security since Sept. 11. The Jinmao Building requires key cards to reach most floors and has set up a 24-hour fire patrol.

But Shanghainese seem to have embraced the new skyscraper.

"We want the best and most symbolic buildings," said a marketing executive who is one of the Jinmao's tenants -- The Wall Street English School. He would give only his English name, Steve. "The same kind of terrorist attack won't happen here."

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