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The Shenzhen Tower
Shenzhen, China

By Dr. Eugene Tsui, Architect/Author / professor August 20, 2006

The creation of the city of Shenzhen is one of the most remarkable stories in modern times. It is the story of the vision of a political body and the industriousness of a nation and its people. Never before has there been created a thriving metropolis of 12 million people from a tiny hamlet of 3000 persons in just 26 years. This is an incredible feat. Shenzhen is unique in that it is a collection of many people from all over China who are given the chance to create a new culture, identity and future. What will be the expression of this new character and identity?
Shenzhen’s geographical location makes it truly a southern gateway to China and its ability to create a spirit of innovation, originality and pride makes it a destination showcase and benchmark of the future.
Up to now, the remarkable city of Shenzhen, though well known throughout China, is hardly recognized elsewhere in the world. Some world maps do not include its name. Shenzhen’s advancements in planning, ecology, safety, environmental protection, immigration, and land use are barely known on the global stage. The spirit of its people and the resolutions of the city leaders continue to go unappreciated by much of the world at large. This must change.
It is time for Shenzhen to acknowledge its special place in the world and let it be known to all nations and people.
We must create an original and timeless emblem, which expresses the aspirations of Shenzhen City and the noble aims of the nation. Many great cities of the world have their icons of instant recognition; the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids of Giza, the Sydney Opera House, the Great Wall of China, the Seattle Space Needle, the Golden Gate Bridge, all are instant benchmarks representing cities and nations of the world—and the special circumstances of the times. Now it is Shenzhen’s time to place itself in the world.


The Shenzhen Tower and its accompanying facilities are located in Shenzhen Bay on a 1-kilometer diameter, circular, human made island called, Dream Island, 2 kilometers east of Shekou and 1 kilometer south of the Redwood (Mangrove) Forest coastline. It is at a point out in the Shenzhen Bay, which can be seen from any coast edge, or high point in Shenzhen city. The South China Sea waters of Shenzhen Bay and Hong Kong to the south surround the island.
An outstanding feature of this island is that it is surrounded by a 1.5-kilometer diameter ring of floating trees and plants that have been specially selected to eat up water bacteria and act as a natural cleaning device for cleaning all of the polluted water of the Shenzhen Bay. This system acts like a giant floating wetlands and has proven itself to work miracles in many areas of the world. In China, it has been used to clean up and beautify the Bai Ma Canal of Fuzhou, China with amazing results. In Fuzhou what was once an unapproachable cesspool is now a beautiful floating garden park full of birds and wild life.
This ecological water cleaning system can also clean all of the raw sewage coming from Dream Island and Shenzhen city and the only thing visitors will see are a floating forest garden of beautiful plants, flowers and trees. On the water’s surface, the island is heaven on earth. Underwater, it is a remarkable sewage cleaning system, letting nature clean itself.

The island, from which Shenzhen Tower rises, is raised 10 meters above the Bay bottom or about 7 to 8 meters above the Bay’s water surface. The Bay is only 2 to 3 meters deep. From the north, Shun Wan Wu Lu extends southward from the existing ecological park, 1 kilometer, out into the Bay to connect onto Dream Island. From the west, in Shekou, Gong Yi Ba Lu extends eastward out into the bay 2 kilometers to reach the island. Each of these two water routes features unique and artistic bridge structures that allow water vessels to pass through uninterrupted. These bridges also artistically introduce visitors to the spectacular ambiance of Dream Island.
Automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians can all reach the island through the two entrance roads. All motor vehicles reach the island through side ports traveling directly underground inside the island. Seven levels of security-patrolled parking accommodate automobiles, buses, taxis, motorcycles and bicycles. From this underground area, visitors can walk or take elevators to the surface.
The surface of the island is divided into seven areas; 1) Large, grassy hills 2) Forested picnicking rest area 3) 12 ramped platforms down to the sea 4) Sunken waterfall plaza 5) Giant waterfall and swimming pool 6) Museum and outdoor exhibition plaza 7) Einstein Universe walkway
Dream Island is both a highly functional ecological water catch and purification system and a beautiful educational, recreational park for visitors from every nation of the world. Surrounded by the waters of the South China Sea and the glittering forms of Shenzhen city it is the perfect setting for the southern gateway to China.


Surrounded by a beautiful Mangrove trees and native water plants a circular marina floats at the water’s edge of Dream Island. This floating marina platform connects with 24 inclined ramps from the park and walkway areas of the upper level and leads to the water’s surface. This floating marina accommodates all sizes of boats to dock and park at the island; up to 1000 mid-sized passenger boats, making Dream Island a destination by land or sea.


Paddle-boats and small motor boats can be rented by visitors to explore the Mangrove and floating plants forest and to freely drive around the Shenzhen Bay. Imagine the incredible views of Shenzhen’s city skyline from the waters of the bay! Tours of the Bay would travel from the water’s edge at Shenzhen’s Fu Tien district and travel all the way to Shekou Mountain—not to mention the panoramic views of the distant Hong Kong mountains. All public touring and recreation boats will have a special design unique to Dream island and the Shenzhen Tower.


Imagine an inclined tower 600 meters high, shimmering in reflective gold—the tallest building in the world—angled 7.5 degrees into the wind, with 92 windmills and 70,000 square meters of photovoltaic solar panels altogether producing 471 megawatts of pollution free, renewable electrical energy. Imagine this tower facing into the wind, its spinning windmills glissening in the sunlight like the scales of a giant, golden, cosmic dragon overseeing the South China Sea, standing at the geographical gateway to China from the south. The tower itself, by far, the largest, single renewable energy structure in the world and Shenzhen will be the capital of renewable energy.
The Shenzhen Tower is sheathed in gold anodized iridescent aluminum, which is weatherproof and requires little maintenance. The photovoltaic panels on the south side are angled to maximize exposure to the sun and this angling makes the tower look like a giant dragon with angled scales on its back—the dragon-like look is the perfect symbol of the power, creativity and tenacity of the southern region and of China as a nation.
At the north side of the Shenzhen Tower is a Great Crystal Hall at ground level—looking like an exploding mineral crystal—consisting of large, angled, pyramidal polygons whose peaks soar up to 136 meters into the sky. The hall is made of translucent, iridescent glass that reflects heat away from the building and creates a fantastic multi-colored effect. Each of the “crystal” peaks forms a heat chimney effect that sweeps warm air from the interior of the building and funnels it up and out of the building naturally without mechanical systems. This funneling effect is used to turn fans to create electricity within the building.
Near the Great Crystal Hall is a 7-meter deep sunken plaza for dining and recreation. Inclined ramps lead down to the lower level where several restaurants, teahouses and a children’s play park provide a relaxed environment surrounded by 7-meter high waterfalls and pools on three sides.
On the south side of the tower, hovering 73 meters above the ground, is a giant glass, aluminum and stainless steel globe with water spilling our from the globe’s equator to form a huge waterfall which acts as an outdoor cooling device to escape Shenzhen’s hot, humid weather. Inside the waterfall is a swimming pool and lounging plaza protected from the scorching sun. A giant curtain of falling water 73 meters above 4656 square meters surrounds the area. The upper surface of the globe features a variety of curling stainless steel sunshades that swirl and twist in all directions. These are each hinged and can be electronically opened and closed during hot and cold seasons. They act as sunshades and ventilation louvers. Visitors enter the enclosed waterfall and pool area through protected archways that lead to the inner water wonderland.
The waterfall has another use; it is a part of a water recycling and cleaning system using special water plants to turn raw sewage into clean water. This globally proven system requires only 20 acres of shallow pond, .5 meters deep, to serve the sewage needs of 7000 persons. The system is called “constructed wetlands” or “living systems,” and exists throughout the world.
Large native trees surround the architectural structure. Circular tables and seats wrap around each tree trunk creating a shaded and peaceful place to rest and take in the beauty and peace of the surroundings.


To reach any one of five observation floors of Shenzhen Tower a five level vertical train allows passengers to stop at five levels simultaneously. The train can travel from ground level to the top five floors in one minute. The vertical “trains” are made of structural safety glass so visitors can see the ground giving away under their feet and shooting them skyward to the lofty blue skies with breathtaking speed—visitors see the entire southern region of China and the islands of the South China Sea; the shimmering waters and receding peaks of distant islands. At the top, every significant natural and human made feature of the region can be viewed and is labeled. Maps and audio tours will point the visitor in the direction of each place such as the birthplace of Sun Yat Sen, Guilin, the Ming Wall, Macao, Hong Kong, Dru Hai, and other special places of the region.
Each floor of the observation area is made of transparent and translucent structural glass so that towards the edge of each floor visitors can see downward and upward with minimal visual interference.
Several restaurants are located on each of the five observation floors featuring indigenous cuisine of the area. Local musicians, poets and artists perform and exhibit their works. The melodic sounds of music and human voice reverberate throughout the spaces with pleasing tones and mysterious qualities. Each floor contains souvenir shops, bookstore, small theatre and audio guided tours, which talk about the special places, history and attitudes of the region as well as future plans.
The Observation Eye structure features a rain and wind catch system that captures rainwater for grey water use and wind funneling for interior cooling. The aerodynamic shape maximizes smooth airflow while minimizing stress and strain to the structure.
A circular antennae, 50 meters in diameter, transmits television, radio and multiple frequency waves across the region. Capping these antennae is a 50-meter high lighting rod that grounds the entire structure for safety during lightning and thunderstorms.


At the base of the tower is a great mass of iridescent, translucent, giant pinnacles forming an explosion of crystalline glass containing 40,000 total square meters of exhibition halls, museum, outdoor exhibition patio and interior garden/waterfall/wetlands. Visitors meander through large and smaller intimate spaces with the roof peaks reaching 130 meters high. One of the main galleries shows the ancient history of Shenzhen going back thousands of years to the first evidence of human existence. A second gallery shows the first evidence of human presence in the Shenzhen area to 1980 when Shenzhen was a village of 3000 persons. A third gallery presents the history of Shenzhen from 1980 to the present and details its decision making process and planning evolution, its goals and achievements. A fourth gallery presents the present day planning issues that are currently being attended to; issues such as ecological applications and the protection of the natural environment and resources, how to keep the natural and human-made environment clean, resolving and maintaining a practical traffic circulation, improving existing buildings and underground infrastructure, the development of science and technology and more. Another gallery displays the future of Shenzhen with presentations that address the new uses of city spaces, the integration of native Shenzhen persons with new immigrants, the imaginative and best use of available land, the planning of disaster emergencies, creating a safer environment for people and protecting the natural environment.
In other words, a permanent display and interactive series of galleries presents Shenzhen’s history; (a) Before humanity, (b) The arrival of humanity, (c) Beginning of Chinese culture to the time of Pu Yi, (d) Pu Yi to 1949, (e) 1949 to 1977, (f) 1977 to 2006, and (g) 2006 and reaching into the future.


A scale model of Shenzhen will be on display and it will be 7 acres in size. The model will be constantly updated to record and display the changes that occur in the city from year-to-year. The model will visually present the important physical issues of the city traffic circulation, pollution, residential and industrial areas, green spaces, recreation areas, bodies of water, mountains, water circulation and sewage treatment, the location of schools and important public buildings. It will be the most detailed three-dimensional model of Shenzhen ever built.


A scale model of China showing all of its terrain and important buildings will also be displayed. This model reaches 14 acres in size--the biggest scale model in China—and will allow viewers to understand the workings of the water, electricity, agriculture, shipping, transportation, telecommunication and educational systems in the country. Visitors will view the model from a series of suspended walkways above the model to give the feeling of flying over China from one area to another. This model will feature the main features of the terrain including mountains, valleys, fields, and deserts, bodies of water, waterfalls, river and coastal features.


Another area of the Great Gallery features “changing design” experiential areas. These are specially designed environments developed by selected architects and designers from every nation of the world who are, by committee selection, invited to design and construct approximately 4500 square meters of interior and exterior space for visitors to enjoy just for the chance to experience something totally new and different; the more imaginative and unique the better.
This provides a way for Shenzhen natives and visitors from all over China and other nations, to experience the most extraordinary design ideas in the world. No need for the Chinese to go elsewhere when the most revolutionary and imaginative designers come to Shenzhen every year to show their best ideas.
As one Design Experience gallery is open to the public another Design Experience gallery is under construction. In this way, every year a new “experience” opens up and every year people visit radically innovative and bold designs. This also encourages each designer to “out-design” the previous designer—in the spirit of encouragement and competition. The visitors are the final judges. Everything is left to personal taste and feeling.
Where in the world could anybody experience such a thing? Only in Shenzhen and only at the Shenzhen Tower.


Here is an exhibition that allows any person, regardless of their background, to present their ideas of the future of Shenzhen—what the future of Shenzhen ought to be. 30,000 RMB, or more, grants would be available to help offset the costs of providing drawings, color renderings, scale models, writings, sketches, films, videos, computer graphics, dramatic plays and other mediums to depict the life and image of Shenzhen in the future. At last, an unlimited forum for persons to express their ideas and vision for a new city.
The exhibition area is 2100 square meters that divides into three shared areas so that three persons can show their visions simultaneously.


This permanent exhibit shows how Shenzhen city works and answers fundamental questions of the technical workings of the city. Where does the sewage go? How is sewage treated? Where do we get our food? Where does our garbage go? What happens to the water we use? How do the traffic lights work? How is traffic coordinated? What is it like to be a policeman or firefighter? How is pollution created? All of the characteristics and activities of the city that we take for granted display and explain their functions.


Here is a chance for everybody to exhibit their ideas for improving the city and presenting solutions to the city’s problem issues. Every year 100 people would give their written opinions as to how to lead the city if they were the Mayor. This is open to persons of all ages, from first graders to retirees—anybody with practical and innovative ideas—ideas that can well be taken seriously by the present Mayor.


Inside the Great Gallery are three auditoriums that accommodate small, medium and large sized gatherings up to 10,000 persons. The smallest of the auditoriums is an auditorium-in-the-round with three levels of seven tiers so that every person in the auditorium can see the face and hear the words of everyone seated. This design allows for heated discussions on a variety of subjects of relevance to the everyday life of people living in Shenzhen and neighboring territories. This auditorium would also be a perfect setting for regional and national communist party conferences.


Imagine entering a world where everything that is very small is suddenly huge and we humans become the size of insects exploring a seemingly alien world of nature. Blades of grass are 6m meters high. A snail is as big as a villa. A grain of sand is the size of a boulder. Discover the world of nature; climb up spider webs. Slide down ant nests. Explore the world of mineral crystals, microscopic organisms and nature’s hidden world. The ground is a series of hidden foam mats that persons, young and old, can play and roll around without injury. Everyone is encouraged to rediscover his or her curiosity and youth, and to learn about the natural world we live in but do not usually see.


The medium and large sized theatres of the Great Gallery, designated for entertainment use include music, theater, circus, dance, and opera events. The building also houses symphonic and small music group performances, lectures, movies, and multi-media presentations. Shenzhen can very well become the entertainment destination of southern China


With its 22,680 square meters of enclosed area, “The pearl ball” is a spherical aluminum and glass structure of 65 meters in diameter with a 50-meter exterior waterfall dropping from the equator of the pearl ball. It features a rotating, perforated skylight system, not unlike a saltshaker top that turns to open and turns to shut, to let in direct sunlight and fresh air. This allows stale interior air to escape through the ceiling where it naturally wants to go. The glass surface panels feature sand blasted distinctive patterns unlike anything seen before.
The pearl ball also features a variety of swirling, curling stainless steel hinged panels that open and close to let air through. The stainless steel panels act as sunshades to control the intense south China sun.


Inside the pearl ball is an inner sphere housing the Planetarium, a spherical room that allows visitors to “see” the galactic universe of stars, planets, solar systems and galaxies that surround our earth. Every hour a Planetarium show presents exhilarating travels through the universe which show how planets were formed, how stars explode, the birth of the earth, black holes, the theories of time and space travel, the principles of relativity and the thoughts of Einstein and so much more! Imagine what you would see if you were riding on a beam of light? How would the world change if you traveled into space at the speed of light and then came back? Would the earth have changed? Would you be older or younger? These and so many other questions are answered as visitors “travel” into space inside the Planetarium. The Planetarium is a great forum for young and old to understand the incredible world beyond the sky.


The pearl ball contains educationally based activities; an Exploratorium/Nature World Experience where persons of all ages can interact with natural phenomena and learn about nature’s processes and products; a leadership-training program for children to develop life long interest in nature, social causes and public issues.
An indoor greenhouse displays the varieties of plants and trees unique to Shenzhen and the surrounding areas. Local flora and fauna, displayed in a dramatic and artistic way, show how the ecology of the local natural environment had formed from millions of years ago to the present. Visitors learn about how nature has evolved in the area over millions and millions of years.


The tower contains 4000 stairs to the top observation level. An annual international stair run competition determines who can run up and down the 4000 stairs in the fastest time. The top three finalists receive trophies and the fastest person deemed the World’s Greatest Stair Runner since the Shenzhen Tower is the highest building in the world with the greatest amount of stairs.


The outdoor areas surrounding the tower all feature undulating sidewalks, grassy knolls, flowers and large trees. Areas of the main walkway wend and heave in spectacular ways giving this two square block area a tremendous distinction and fun loving ambiance. Nothing is regular and uniform. It is as if gravity went berserk. It would be unlike any place in the world. It is a spatial universe according to Einstein come alive for everyone to experience.


Surrounding the plaza area is a curved wall where movies can be projected and shown to the public at night. During the winter, spring and fall months, the Tower Plaza shows movies three times a week attracting huge, curious crowds and possibly becoming the most popular gathering place in Shenzhen for those who like to be outdoors on cool nights.


A curving sunken plaza is located near the Great Crystal Hall featuring three walls of waterfalls and two outdoor restaurants. It is a place of music, outdoor cafes and good time fun. Musicians play softly into the night and the young and old gather in merriment and relaxation. Waterfalls create a cool outdoor space of moving air.


A remarkable city deserves a remarkable symbol to elevate it into the realm of immortality. The Shenzhen Tower is not just a signature for Shenzhen it is a standard of collective vision and achievement for all of China and represents many of the values of Chinese culture that made China endure as the oldest civilization in human history. China’s mutually dependent relationship of nature and humanity, the preservation and protection of the environment, and the bold expression of human invention and ingenuity, reflect the desire to reach into the sky and to dare to go beyond the realm of possibility. The spirit of coaxing the unknown with an intensity of collective effort to create great works proves the characteristics of the Chinese spirit inherent in such an artful structure. The Shenzhen Tower becomes the modern symbol of China entering a new era on the global stage. It is a symbol of leadership, daring, culture and environmental conscience. Let all nations take notice that China is coming!


Height: Rises to 600 meters.
Incline 7.5 degrees into direction of greatest and most consistent annual wind.
Antennae: 50 meter diameter, circular antennae, for all frequencies, with lightning rod spire.
Elevators: Four glass elevators with five decks stopping at five floors simultaneously
Structural Materials: High strength steel, structural glass anodized reflective aluminum, stamped stainless steel, safety glass, reinforced concrete, ceramic tile and native stone.
Construction Method: Prefabrication on a level-by-level crane lifts system.
Windmills: 92 “Eggbeater” windmills made by Chinese manufacturers producing 5 megawatts of power each for a total of 460 megawatts (460, 000, 000 watts).
Photovoltaics: Uses 50 panels of 1400 square meters producing 11, 000, 000 watts of continuous renewable electricity.
Total Electricity Production: Produces 471 megawatts per day.
Lookout Area: Five levels with structural glass totaling 9600 square meters.
The Great Crystal Hall: Total enclosed area: 27,000 square meters and rising 136 meters in height.
The pearl ball: 22,680 square meters total and 77 meters in diameter
The Heavenly Pool: 9700 square meters
The Heavenly Plaza: 4000 square meters
Sunken Outdoor Plaza: 4000 square meters
Public Sidewalk and Plaza area: 11, 000 square meters
Total size of the building site: 785, 500 square meters at 1 kilometer diameter
Newly Planted Trees: 164 large sized trees at the sidewalk
Underground Parking: 460,000 square meters on 12 levels
Floating Wetlands Water Cleaning System: Provides 1.5-kilometer diameter and 30, 000 square meters of Mangrove, Cattails, Water Hyacinth and other species of water plants.

Photo Captions (Tower from the West): The Shenzhen Tower as seen from Shekou. Standing 600 meters high, inclined at 7.5 degrees, containing 92 windmills and 70, 000 square meters of photovoltaic panels with a huge, vegetation based water cleaning system and located on a human made island 1 kilometer in diameter, the building and its site would be the largest ecological structure in history.
Photo Caption (Tower from the north): A view from Shun Wan Wu Lu Ecological Park looking southward to Dream Island with its floating wetlands system and bow-shaped skeletal structure rising into the clouds. The bridge to the tower with its swirling and meandering members becomes a work of art that leads visitors into the future.

Photo Caption (Tower from the east—from Di Wang building): A view of Shenzhen Tower from the top floor of Di Wang Da Sha showing Dream Island’s proximity to downtown Shenzhen and its place in the sea waters of Shenzhen Bay. Everyone feels the Shenzhen Tower’s presence, seen from downtown Shenzhen all the way to Shekou.

Photo Caption (View of The Great Pearl Ball waterfalls and landscaped garden areas): A view of what visitors will see when they are picnicking and walking through the beautiful grassy fields, trees and garden area which surrounds the Shenzhen Tower.

Photo Caption (Aerial View of the tower base and Dream Island surrounded by floating mangrove and water plants): The view shows how the entire island is surrounded by a ring of floating Mangrove trees and water plants which clean the waters of the bay and provide a beautiful marina for boating and sea water observation on 24 floating platforms.

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