A Leaping, Twisting, 328-Foot Aluminum Fish: The Observation Tower at Zhuhai, China

1 Posted by - September 17, 2014 - Architecture, Asia, Design
Zhuhai Observation Tower

Located at the southern tip of the Pearl River Delta of Guangdong Province, is the city of Zhuhai.

The Observation Tower business in the Far East is doing very well, in contrast to others areas of the world, as the Far East has the most, the tallest and the most dramatic examples. The Canton Tower in Guangzhou is the tallest in the world right now, then there is the Tokyo SkyTree, the Oriental Palace in Shanghai, the Menara Tower in Kuala Lumpur, and the Macau Tower in Hong Kong.  All these have dazzling designs, but the most recent one, one that has just been approved and will start construction by the end of the year, is arguably the most visually arresting, and in an area not that well- known to western visitors – Zhuhai, China.

Located at the southern tip of the Pearl River Delta of Guangdong Province, is the city of Zhuhai, where four-fifths of the city is surrounded by sea. The city faces Hong Kong to the east, and Macau to the south, with 146 islands in and around its harbor, a part the South China Sea. Many of the islands are basically small fishing villages, and many are not inhabited at all.  In and around Zhuhai, there are palm trees, long coastlines with sand beaches, and green hills to the north, making Zhuhai seem very like Miami Beach combined with beach cities of Southern California.  But unlike those areas, people have lived there since the Neolithic Age, and trade has been going on there since the beginning of the Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BC.)

Though many in the West immediately associate China with Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, Zhuhai is regarded as one of the most comfortable places to live in China. With a population of just 820,000 in the city proper and a total of 1.4 million in the region, Zhuhai is small by Chinese standards. Nonetheless, Zhuhai is one of China’s premier tourist destinations, being called the Chinese Riviera by many who travel there. 

Inside Zhuhai Observation Tower

Inside Zhuhai Observation Tower

Early in September 2014, the international architecture/design firm RMJM, won the design competition for the Observation Tower to be built in Zhuhai. The design is inspired by the city’s traditional river/ocean water culture, and the architects designed the tower in the image of a jumping fish. 

The symbol of the fish in China is part of the Chinese cultural heritage, as it has always been considered one of good fortune, wealth, and even luck. The Tower design and structure twists, just as a fish would leap from the sea, and the façade will be made from 1400 perforated aluminum panels, which look very like the silver scales of a jumping fish.  The Tower is further composed of twelve two-dimensional curves, and the Observation Tower’s fish likeness symbolizes, according to the RMJM architects, the prosperity of Zhuhai.

The 328-foot high mixed-use tower is split into three main activity zones: the ground podium with retail and restaurants, the leisure activity zone in the middle, and the observation deck on the top floor. This deck will offer 360-degree views. A cantilevered staircase will serve as the main means of the visitor’s vertical movement as it moves upward around a core of trusses. Once visitors are brought to the top, a lower observation platform enclosed by glass panels is directly accessible by an elevator.  There are sun-shading devices inside, while at night, high beam LED lights illuminate the façade.

The Zhuhai Observation Tower, once completed in 2016, will allow travelers from both East and West to view the city, its islands and perhaps on a clear day, Macau and Hong Kong as well. And, similar to most Observations Towers in the Far East, on a clear day you can see to an endless horizon and realize just how much the world is becoming a global village.

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