Lujiazui Financial District, Shanghai, China
© Jackal Pan/Getty Image
Tall, taller, tallest
Piercing the clouds above Shanghai, each of these three supertall spires could be seen as a freeze-frame of China's swift economic growth in the past couple of decades. Jin Mao Tower (right, 420.6 metres) was mainland China's tallest building from 1999 until the Shanghai World Financial Center (left, 492 metres) opened in 2007 and took the title. Shanghai Tower (centre, 652 metres) topped out in 2013, besting the SWFC and becoming the second-tallest skyscraper in the world (behind Dubai's Burj Khalifa).
The Shanghai Tower is considered a megatall building. Yes, that's self-evident, but 'megatall' is a technical term, meaning that it's over 600 metres. The structure has struggled to enlist tenants since its 2016 opening—owing partly to its clever inline-twist design that protects it from strong winds but makes for irregular floor plans. About 50 of 128 floors were unrented as of 2019, a slow start that may have influenced China's April 2020 decree limiting skyscraper height to 500 metres and encouraging lower-rise designs with more traditional Chinese aesthetics. Regardless, Shanghai Tower's observation deck, at more than 540 metres above street level, has become one of the freshest attractions in the ancient city.