To capture some of China’s forward-looking engineering in action, the MacGillivray Freeman team took a head-spinning excursion to the tallest skyscraper in China and the world’s 2nd tallest building: the Shanghai Tower. The Tower opened in 2015 and features 127 stories that rise above the clouds in spiral form that is at once romantic and practical, shedding huge wind forces while resembling a dragon’s serpentine tail. Designed by the American architectural firm Gensler and created in conjunction with a consortium of Chinese companies and the New York-based structural engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti, it is also a certified LEED Platinum building due to its inventive sustainability features. These include the world’s tallest wind turbines, which take advantage of the powerful air currents surrounding the tower to provide 10% of the building’s energy, and a state-of-the-art rainwater collection system.


Dream Big takes an up-close look at Shanghai Tower’s stunning glass façade, which twists in a triangle through 120 degrees as it soars, an elegant means of battling one of the biggest problems all super-tall buildings face: their vulnerability to fierce gusts that can stress the structure and cause upper floors to take on a dizzying sway. To prevent this, the tower’s rotational design was tested in wind tunnels that simulate the region’s typhoon-strength winds. The precision engineering of the building’s twist was found to reduce wind forces by 24%, which in turn resulted in major costs savings.

Filming in the middle of the world’s most populous city–not to mention getting on top of such a massive mega-structure–was no easy feat, but it was irresistible. “It was extremely hard to get permission to shoot at the Shanghai Tower,” notes Director of Photography Brad Ohlund, “but it is such a stunning and innovative piece of engineering that we persisted. We used drone shots to get that birds-eye view of its amazing shape and design.”

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