Chongqing has ‘horizontal skyscraper’ 250 meters up

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An artist's impression of Raffles City Chongqing. Photo: Handout

Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands resort and gaming complex has been a landmark since its inauguration in 2011, with some hailing it as an icon of modernity while others loathe it as an urban eyesore.

People walk past the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore. Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su

People walk past the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore. Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su

Its unorthodox design featuring a podium that is not on the ground but atop three 55-story hotel and condominium towers is a genuine novelty and the numerous pools and lookout deck on piggybacking on a 1-hectare midair podium called a “roof terrace” reels in tourists and architectural enthusiasts alike, on top of the revelers and high-rollers who also flock to the casino resort.

Now imagine a complex – this one in China – that is twice the size of the Singapore attraction and with an additional pair of skyscrapers on a 250-meter-high podium. The result is Raffles City Chongqing, a futuristic, 24 billion yuan (US$3.8 billion), 1.1 million square meter mega complex that is taking shaping in the western Chinese municipality.

The gigantic, 300-meter-long crystal rooftop corridor connects four 250-meter towers and stretches through, literally, two 350-meter super-tall skyscrapers via cantilever bridges.

The 30-meter-wide glass elevated walkway will incorporate an upscale shopping arcade, catering and recreation amenities and a glass-bottomed outdoor observation deck that might raise the hair at the back of your neck.

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The sky podium, 400 meters long, sits atop four 250-meter-tall office and hotel towers. Photo: Handout
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An illustration of a swimming pool to be built inside the podium. Photo: Handout

Steel and glass complexes of this kind are often a source of hot debate in China and abroad on the pros and cons of such costly, postmodern architecture making bold changes to a city’s appearance and skyline.

Statistics-wise, the passageway comprises 3,200 pieces of glass and 4,800 aluminum panels and weighs a staggering 12,000 tons, the equivalent of 1.5 Eiffel Towers or 20 Airbus 380 superjumbo jets, according to Chongqing media.

From its heights, those who dare will be able to take in the panorama of the Yangtze River and Jialing River converging at Chongqing’s Chaotianmen, the metropolis’ densely built-up downtown delta that is reminiscent of the urban jungle in Hong Kong.

Construction has been going on since 2013 toward the soft opening of the mixed-use vertical city in early 2019.

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An interconnecting section of the sky corridor is hoisted to the top of two towers. Photo: Handout
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Raffles City Chongqing is taking shape. Its soft opening is due early next year. Photo: Handout

The humongous complex is an investment by Singaporean real-estate company CapitaLand, which owns and operates a growing portfolio of shopping malls and office towers across China.

It was designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, who also conceived the Marina Bay Sands.

Some sections of the sky podium are built atop the four buildings in the middle, while the three interconnecting pieces, weighing 1,100 tons each, are constructed on the ground, hoisted by hydraulic strand jacks and attached to the side of the buildings to complete a continuous platform.

The project’s contractor is the state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation.

China’s fascination with super-tall and postmodern mega-complexes is best manifested on the latest list of the world’s tallest buildings: Five of the world’s top 10 skyscrapers are in China, with the 632-meter Shanghai Tower currently in the runner-up position, second only to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

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The Shanghai Tower (right) with a twist in shape is now the tallest building in China and the second-tallest globally. Credit: Dezeen.com

At least 12 towers above the 400-meter mark are springing up across China as well, primarily in second-tier cities, according to a list compiled by Wikipedia.

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