Shanghai’s Ugly Skyscraper

It could use another column or two, don't you think?

In China, it is not impolite to stare.  Western tourists to small cities will find themselves gawked at by kids and adults alike.  So, I didn’t feel at all awkward when I was staring at a large white figure in downtown Shanghai:  an ugly skyscraper right across from the Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai’s concrete Space Needle.

I love postmodern architecture.  I like the Chippendale-topped AT&T Building in New York City, and I am not afraid of Michael Graves’ gaudy, overblown, pastel-hued Swan and Dolphin hotels in Orlando.  But I found this building in Shanghai to be one of the most fascinatingly ugly skyscrapers I have seen.

Caesars Palace (Photo: Brian Whitmarsh)

It is as if an 1800’s-era draftsman dreamed of a Greek-revival tower that could never be constructed with technology of the day.  He drew a picture, but his dream was never realized.  This tower makes Caesars Palace look subtle.  It borrows from the simple magnificence of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to create a huge heavy over-columned Parthenon that is as out-of-place in modern Shanghai as it would be in Athens.  Perhaps the only place it would not be out of place is a Zeus cartoon.

Compare the graceful proportions of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to the heavy squareness of Shanghai's imitation. (Photo: Leithcote)

Capturing beauty in a photo is sometimes difficult.  So is capturing ugly.  But I did the best I could.  I think the only thing the photo misses is just how over-themed this place is.

But the more I looked at it, I couldn’t stop staring.  It started to grow on me.  And if it weren’t for the cheeseball Parthenon pediment on the bottom and the dome I could actually love it.  But that would be embarrassing.

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