on April 6, 2006
There are two massive structures which dominate the Pudong side of the Huangpo River directly opposite the Bund and the end of Nanjing Lu. The tallest of the two is the Jinmao Tower, a giant metallic looking building that tapers up to a point at the very top. It is a stunning creation and manages to blend an imposing scale with delicate lines in a way that allows it to complement rather than overpower the Shanghai skyline. Whilst I am no architectural expert, it seems to me that it borrows some key aspects from structures like the Empire State Building or even the Chrysler Building.The strange thing is though, despite its stature and sparkling facade the Jinmao almost completely failed to grab my attention when I first visited Shanghai. That privilege instead went to the Oriental Pearl Tower. Now, where Jinmao looks to be somewhat classical and subtle in its design, perhaps even offering an architectural nod to the style of Shanghai's previous generations, the Pearl seems to be going for the gaudiest, most obtrusive look possible. It is almost as though it were designed as a giant skewer with a series of giant pink spheres impaled upon it like marshmallows ready for the fire or chunks of lamb on a kebab.The Pearl tends to polarise opinion; most people either love it or hate it. In all fairness giant pink balls tend to generate a response some kind of response either way. I have to admit, that despite the fact that that it lacks any form of subtlety whatsoever, I love it.I remember when I first laid eyes on Pudong. It was a hazy summer afternoon and as I approached the end of Nanjing Lu the giant pink balls thrust themselves through the mist. As I emerged onto the Bund the Pearl stood out like nothing I had ever seen before. In comparison, Jinmao seemed to hover in the background without really penetrating into either my line of sight or imagination.I remember standing on the Bund sort of transfixed by what I saw. It was hypnotic watching the sunlight reflect off the spheres creating a wonderful array of pinks, reds and purples.The view of the Pearl from the city side of the Huangpo was spectacular. However, I soon found out that the reverse of this was also true. From the highest and smallest sphere the views around Shanghai were stunning. Looking back across the river the city seemed to stretch away until it faded into a combination of summer haze and smog. I could also look across to where the Jinmao stood glistening and towering just a couple of kilometers away.
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