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Soaring a staggering 600m into the sky, the Ping An Finance Center will not only be the tallest building in Shenzhen but the tallest office building in the world.

Ping An Finance Center © Kohn Pedersen Fox

Ping An Finance Center © Kohn Pedersen Fox

Set for completion this year, this behemoth of stone and glass has been designed by American architectural firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF). It has risen from the ground at a rate of one storey every four days. When completed, it will house more than 100 floors of office space and five floors of retail shops. StylebyAsia spoke to David I. Malott, the principal architect in charge of the project.

When did KPF win the contract to design the Ping An Financial Centre?

We won the project through a competition which began in September 2007, spent several months refining our concept in discussions with Ping An, and started work in earnest a year later, September 2008. It was an interesting time to start an ambitious undertaking - during the global financial crisis - but we had faith in Ping An and its ability to complete the project.  

Ping An Finance Center © ZengTianpei

Ping An Finance Center © ZengTianpei


A lot is being made of the building's height. Do you think this is a key attribute of its design?

Ping An Finance Center is gaining a lot of attention because of its sheer height, but what I am most proud of is the elegant manner in which such height is achieved. Because of its scale, it was important to me that the tower looked light and agile. Of the many inspirations behind the project, the design team spent a lot of time looking at fabrics - specifically the way fabrics drape and fold down when held by a point at the top. This gives the tower a very natural and graceful line from top to bottom. 

Shenzhen doesn't have the geographical constraints of a city like Hong Kong. Why did you opt for such a vertical design?

Shenzhen does not have the same geographical constraints as an island city such as Hong Kong or Manhattan, but it is a linear city stretched along the border with Hong Kong to the south and hemmed in by hills to the north. Each border crossing is marked by a dense urban cluster. The Ping An tower marks the centre of the largest urban cluster - the Futian district - at a major transit hub connecting to Hong Kong and Guangzhou with a future high-speed underground rail line. When construction on the Ping An tower started, tunnel boring machines were dropped into the ground next to the site and started making their way to Hong Kong. With each metre Ping An rises, the tunnel gets closer and closer to Hong Kong. Seen in this context, Ping An tower stands at the centre of an urban network spanning the entirety of the Pearl River Delta region of China. It makes sense to make best use of such a strategic location by going extremely vertical. 

Ping An Finance Center © Kohn Pedersen Fox

Ping An Finance Center © Kohn Pedersen Fox

You describe the shopping area at the base of the building as built around an amphitheatre type space. Are you hoping that the building will be a cultural draw?

Yes. I believe it is a civic responsibility for all tall buildings, especially for the tallest, to contribute to the city.  Public participation in and around the spaces surrounding private projects is a public right. People should feel a sense of shared ownership of the city, its skyline and its landmarks. It’s not always the easiest thing to design into a project, given practical requirements for security and privacy of occupants, but we considered public participation a priority from the beginning.   

At the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\ Architecture in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, some architects presented projects urging a move away from vertical designs to horizontal designs that encourage more interaction between inhabitants. How do you respond to this?

We live in a three-dimensional world. Technology has enabled us to communicate vertically, and virtually. If humanity spreads out horizontally across the planet, we will destroy our land resources. If China were to be built at the same density as the United States, it would cover the landmass of the earth several times over. Conversely, if all of Shenzhen were built at the same vertical density as Ping An tower, all the world’s workers could fit into the land area of Shenzhen, twice. Both are extreme propositions, so the answer to a sustainable urban future is somewhere in-between. Architects all aspire to the same thing - to build a better environment. There is a place for tall buildings and low buildings, for the vertical and the horizontal, as long as it is all connected together by a common factor:  People. 

Ping An Finance Center © Kohn Pedersen Fox

Ping An Finance Center © Kohn Pedersen Fox

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      • Ping An Finance Center
      • Ping An Finance Center
      • Ping An Finance Center


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