Saturday, November 28

Sky high in Shanghai

Two years ago I blogged about the emerging World Financial Centre in Shanghai. At the time the building was just weeks away from being topped out, rising more than 492 meters (1,614.2 ft) above the city. Last weekend I was back in Shanghai and couldn't resist an opportunity to visit the stunning, glossy observation deck that spans the building's crown, 474 m (1,555 ft) above the street.

Access to the three-level observation deck is gained via a high-speed lift that rises from a dimly lit, black tiled basement lobby, ten metres below ground. An exhilarating ride whisks you to the 97th floor at a speed of more than 10 metres per second (36 km / h). As you ascend the elevator counts up the metres above the ground. A bright, sunny atrium then greets visitors with a spectacular view of downtown Shanghai and the Huang Pu River below.

A second lift takes you up another 35 metres to a soaring glass walkway, which includes a floor of heart-stopping glass panels. This is the world's highest observation deck. It also marks the top of the distinctive bottle-opener shaped hole in the building's crest. Souviner stands elsewhere in the complex tout large silver bottle-openers modelled on its distinctive shape.

It goes without saying that the view from 474 metres is spectacular. Perhaps the most awe inspiring sight is the bird's eye view of the neighbouring Jin Mao Tower, currently the world's seventh tallest building. At 421 metres it soars above the surrounding city. However, when viewed from the world's highest observation deck, it looks more like a toy. How times have changed. In 2003, Garry and I enjoyed cocktails at Cloud Nine, the world's highest bar located on the Jin Mao Tower's 87th floor. We felt we were drinking in the clouds.

A sculpture at the base of the World Financial Centre also captures my imagination. Without a hint of irony, a giant horseshoe magnet frames the building, symbolising the growing global pull of China's burgeoning economy. Since the 1980s, the Chinese economy has grown at an average annual rate of 9%. Thirty years ago China set the goal of quadrupling its gross domestic product btween 1980 and the year 2000. This goal was achieved in 1995, five years ahead of schedule.

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