Architecture as part of the Shanghai Art Market with Marshall Strabala

When you goggle “Shanghai” one of the first things that pops up will be an imagine of the Shanghai Pudong skyline, a beautiful array of sparkling lights, glittering glass, and mile high skyscrapers. The Pudong district is a shining example of the building boom that has taken China by storm. The development of the Pudong district began just 20 years ago when construction on the Oriental Pearl Tower finished in 1994, followed by the Jin Mao Tower in 1999, Shanghai World Financial Center in 2008 and the Shanghai Tower currently under construction. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to meet with the lead architect of the Shanghai Tower, Marshall Strabala to discuss the development of the Shanghai Art Market through architecture.

Shanghai Skyline at Night

Shanghai Skyline at Night

Marshall was first introduced to the Shanghai scene in 2006 when he began working on designs for Shanghai Tower. Construction on the Shanghai Tower began in 2008 and is set for completion in 2015. Upon completion the tower will be the tallest in the Shanghai skyline with 121 floors, 2,074 feet tall.

Since I have found that the art market is made up primarily of expatriates and internationals I began the interview by asking Marshall if this also seamed to be the case in the field of architecture? To which he responded “We are Expats and that community is more visible to us rather than the local, simply because we do not read Chinese.” He then followed up by noting that the expat architectural community is quite large in China because there is more work by volume here than in other parts of the world, and that most large architectural firms have offices in Shanghai. This being said he explained that the difference in the art world and architecture world is that each project done by an expat architect must have a local partner to “chop the drawings” as expat firms are only allowed to design up to the DD phase. He concluded by saying that 85% of architecture was local and 15% was international.

The next question I asked was if there were differences in the way he would design a building for Shanghai as opposed to a city in the United States. When proposed with this question he listed off several differences cost (it is much cheaper to build in China), time (construction is about 3-4 times faster in China than in the west), materials (Chinese materials are more high end, but with poor detailing), and culture (China is looking to create an international standard of Commercial Buildings). Relating to this topic I also asked if the Chinese cultural belief of Feng Shui was something taken into consideration when designing a building. ” It is a Chinese tradition in building. It couldn’t hurt, so we do it. This superstition Feng Shui is publically ignored, but privately and quietly followed.” He explained that the Shanghai tower has curved edges and will not have a 14th floor, both principles of Feng Shui.

Following this question I asked if he could identify any architectural trends taking place in Shanghai? “China and the Middle East have driven the shift to a more ‘formalist approach’. This is architecture determined by an unusual, odd, or ‘new’ shape rather than determined by function.  Architecture, is taking lessons from the fashion world, meaning that only the new is noteworthy. The building cycle starts with trendiness and move to a more sophisticated idea for function. Myself as an architect always tries to create architectural forms as a result of function.  I think the next trend to come is simply better buildings, and this means better in all respects.”

Lastly I asked what he thought was next in the architectural future of Shanghai. To which he explained that there are several different factors that would determine the architectural future of Shanghai, the key factor being space. As the population continues to grow the city will reach a point at which it can no longer expand. However “we have almost unlimited and unused vertical space in all our cites. The future trend will be more dense cities, but with less cars.”

From left to right: Shanghai World Financial Center, Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai Tower

From left to right: Shanghai World Financial Center, Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai Tower

Although there are many differences between the developments of the art market and the development of Shanghai’s architecture there are also many similarities. tBoth markets have seen immense growth since the opening of China, and both have strong ties to western influence. The main differences arise when the considering the actual building of the structure, and that the art market is a more fluid field, while architecture is stagnant. What is made today will stand to a testament of the times for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

css.php