Construction starts on China's tallest building, the Gensler-designed 128-storey Shanghai Tower

Construction began last week on what will become China's tallest building, the 632m-high Shanghai Tower designed by US architect Gensler. Located in Shanghai's Luijiazui finance and trade zone, the 128-storey tower will clinch a trio of US-designed skyscrapers including Kohn Pederson Fox's 492m-high Shanghai World Financial Centre and Skidmore Owings & Merrill's 10-year-old 421m-tall Jin Mao Tower.

The £530m, 594,000m2 scheme is funded, developed and built by a consortium of three local companies, Shanghai Chengtou Corp, Luijiazui Finance & Trade Zone Development Co and the Shanghai Construction Group.

The tower's outer sheathing takes the shape of a spiral, the Chinese symbol of the cosmos adopted by Gensler to express “China's connection with the world space and time”. But the main accommodation of financial offices and luxury hotel are contained within a cylindrical inner tower, leaving wide amenity zones between the two facades for restaurants, cafes, shops and sky gardens.

The building's unusual shape also carries a sustainable payload. Gensler, along with US structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti and services engineer Cosentini Associates, claim the outer façade's spiral shape, taper and texture work together to reduce wind loads by 24%, allowing considerable savings in structure and fabric.

In addition, the tower culminates in an open coronet that collects rainwater for recycling and conceals 54 vertical-axis wind turbines that can generate 540,000kW/h of green power each year.

The tower was designed in association with Tongji University's Architectural Design and Research Institute. Completion is planned for 2014.