Skyscraper of the Day: Meet China Zun

CITIC Tower is a 109-storey, 528 m (1,732 ft) supertall skyscraper in the Central Business District of Beijing, it is the tallest building in the city. It is colloquially known as ‘China Zun’, the tower is a mixed-use building, featuring 60 floors of office space, 20 floors of luxury apartments, and 20 floors of hotel with 300 rooms. The nickname China Zun comes from the zun, an ancient Chinese wine vessel that inspired the building design, according to the developers, the CITIC Group. Construction of the building lasted from 2011 to 2018.

Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), the supertall innovative architecture remains culturally appropriate, drawing inspiration from the “zun”, a ritual vessel originating in Bronze Age China. KPF designed a vase-like form, varying from 78-meter-wide at the base to 54-meter-wide at the center and finishing up with 69-meter-wide at the top. The tower’s design suitable for China’s greatest seismic zone meets the ground elegantly. The building puts in place a square plan with rounded corners.

On the ground level, the lobby’s curve creates a dramatic effect, providing a “backdrop to the pedestrian experience”. The unique façade’s expression is introduced in the interior canopy, following the same logic of curvatures. Containing the headquarters for CITIC Group and CITIC Bank, the tower also incorporates office spaces and a multipurpose business center.

However the project has also garnered some controversy as Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao reported that China Zun’s top three floors, Levels 106–107 and an observatory on level 108, is to be expropriated by the national-security apparatus since the entire Zhongnanhai complex, could be seen from the top of the skyscraper with the naked eye on a clear day. The Zhongnanhai complex is host to the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Though nothing has been confirmed, the building has been ordered rectification for “fire safety issues” by the authorities, but the CITIC Group has as of yet been unable to reveal the specific reason for rectification thus the controversy persists.

Regardless, CITIC Tower, located in the northern part of the dense region of Beijing CBD, connects to a “vast underground transportation network, linking together a pedestrian passageway system, a B2-level roadway, and four subway lines across three stations”, creating a civic hub that will serve the city in various ways for decades to come.

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