The Shanghai Skyline
Shanghai has an amazing skyline, beautifully split by the Huangpu River into the older Puxi area on the west side and the brand-new Pudong area on the east side. The river, which averages about 1/4 mile wide, is an imposing presence in the central area, and is filled with neon-clad sightseeing boats at night.
Let me talk about Pudong first. It didn’t really exist before 1990, but has grown incredibly fast into the commercial and financial hub of all of China. The Pudong skyline is dominated by three structures. The first was the Oriental Pearl Tower, which is primarily a TV transmission tower with a variety of observation decks and related amusements, quite similar to the CN Tower in Toronto. It is currently the 10th tallest freestanding structure in the world.
The second major Pudong building is the Jin Mao Tower, an 88-story elegant tower that was the third-tallest building in the world when it opened in 1999 and is now 10th. To provide a scale of comparison, it is almost more than 100 feet taller than the Empire State Building and about 70 feet shorter than the Sears Tower (I can’t call it the Willis Tower, sorry!).
However, today’s shining star of the Pudong skyline is the Shanghai World Financial Center, which topped out in 2007 at 1,614 feet, making it the second-tallest building in the world behind Taipei’s Taipei 101 Tower (today the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is by the far the tallest, making this massive building third). It is strange to me to build them so close together, as you can see above. This building has the world’s highest observation deck (which I did visit and will cover in another post).
Overall, the Pudong skyline makes an impression day or night – although the beauty of the neon lights reflecting on the water makes the nighttime far better!
Back on the other, older side of the Huangpu River – where a wide and very busy promenade provides these great views of Pudong – there is also a lower but perhaps grander skyline – that of The Bund. The term means embankment, and refers to the area along the west bank of the river. This was the international settlement of Shanghai, which was home to many international trade houses and banks in the first half of the 20th century. Although these functions largely disappeared with the rise of communism, the art deco buildings mostly remained, and make a nice, dignified contrast to the brash new mega-city of Pudong.