Excerpts from a lecture by KPF founding partner, William Pedersen, October 27, 2009, "KPF in Shanghai: Skyline and Streetscape."
Pedersen illustrates the conceptual background of the Shanghai World Financial Center and traces the design development from the critique of the circular void at the top to its final translation as a rectangular prism.
The first design for the Shanghai World Financial Center dates back to 1993, when the Mori Building Company, led by the Japanese businessman the late Minoru Mori, and the architectural firm KPF, won a competition by the Chinese government to build on one of the three key sites in the new business district of Pudong, across the river from Shanghai’s historic center. After the foundations were placed in 1997, however, the project was put on hold due to the Asian financial crisis. When plans resumed after 2001, there were several changes in the design and structure, including an increased height of 32 meters and a new shape for the opening at the top: a square prism.
The story of the change from the original circle design illustrates the symbolic power of architecture, both in its intended allusions and in perceived meanings. As architect Bill Pedersen explains in a talk that can be heard in the video playing to the left of this case, the large circular opening was meant to evoke ancient Chinese celestial stone disks that represent the heavens, as well as the moon gates of traditional Chinese gardens. The circle thus poetically symbolized "the relationship of the earth and the sky.”
Chinese government officials, however, read a different sort of symbolism into the circle, which they associated with the rising sun on the Japanese flag. Even the revision of a bridge that cut though the center of the space, as shown in the large wood model here, proved unacceptable to the authorities, so the circle was replaced with a square prism.
Learn more here: http://skyscraper.org/EXHIBITIONS/TEN_TOPS/swfc.php