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A Higher Purpose


On December 18, 2010, the 325-meter-high building of China Minsheng Banking Corp. Ltd., currently the tallest in Wuhan, formally went into operation, and only 10 days earlier, ground had already been broken for another high-rise in the same central Chinese city. Planned to reach 606 meters into the sky, the new project will become the third tallest building in the world. Such intense construction of high-rises is rare not only to the rest of the world, but uncommon even in modern China. China’s skyscraper count was less than 200 in 1990, but now is nearing 1,000, drastically altering dozens of urban Chinese skylines.

Much of the influx of high-rises in China can be attributed to the endeavors of Chinese architects. Recently, China Pictorial interviewed Jin Lu, chief architect of Beijing Urban Engineering Design and Research Institute Co., Ltd.

“Under China’s Tall Building Fire Code, structures exceeding 100 meters in height are classified as ultra high-rises,” explains Jin. “This criterion is similar to standards in other countries.” According to the architect, the world’s first ultra high-rise was the Home Insurance Building, completed in 1885 in Chicago. “High-rise and ultra high-rise buildings are generally considered icons of urban modernization,” he continues, “which help improve cities’ appearances through impressive skylines. An aggregation of super-tall skyscrapers conserves urban space, increases commercial efficiency, and attracts investments. In some cities, landmark buildings also serve as important tourism resources.”

Due to tremendous costs, super-tall buildings reflect overall national strength to some extent. A review of architectural history of developed countries shows that in the 19th century, they primarily concentrated on constructing urban roads and bridges, and that focus didn’t shift to tall buildings until the 20th century. After the turn of the 21st century, they began utilizing underground space to more comprehensively tap urban space resources. China’s economic boom and expanding urbanization in recent years have resulted in increasing demand for urban space and consequently increasing numbers of skyscrapers.

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