Completed in 2008 and currently the tallest building in Shanghai (not to mention China), the Shanghai World Financial Center (Shànghǎi Huánqiú Jīnróng Zhōngxīn, 上海环球金融中心) stands as an architectural exclamation point tacked on to the end of the astonishing period of economic growth and construction that has transformed the Lujiazui district of Pudong (the east bank of the Huangpu River) from mudflats, warehouses and farms into one of the world's most impressive skylines.
Though the 492-meter (1,614 ft) SWFC overshadows the distinctive pagoda-meets-the-Empire-State-Building profile of the next-door Jin Mao Tower, it won't be the final punctuation mark in Shanghai's remarkable story of hyper-growth—the more than 600 m (more than 1970 ft) tall Shanghai Tower is slated for completion in 2014—it has already become a Shanghai icon.
If you're up for a wait and don't mind the RMB 100-150 fee (the price goes up with the floor level), the views from the SWFC observation decks located on the 94th, 97th and 100th floors are guaranteed to wow. If you opt to take the free elevator up to the 100 Century Avenue's restaurants between the 91st and 93rd floors, you get the view—with the added pleasure of having a bit of extra money to put toward food and drink.
And if you want to spend scads of money, you can easily do so at the world's tallest hotel, the sumptuous Park Hyatt Shanghai (79th-93rd floors). Needless to say, the views are unparalled and the services and facilities are of the highest quality.
Buildings this big tend to draw controversy, and the Japanese-funded WFC is no stranger. The trapezoidal opening at the top was originally slated to be an elegant circle—a subtle reference to tradtional Chinese architecture—until Shanghai government officials objected that the plan would effectively place an enormous rising sun, the Japanese national symbol, over the city that Japan bombed and occupied during World War II.
Designed by the firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, the SWFC is a definitive and monumental testament to Shanghai's most recent boom years and, though not as architecturally significant as the Jin Mao or oldie-but-goodie Oriental Pearl Tower, its observation decks and sheer size make it a highly recommended Shanghai attraction.
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