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Local Sentiment Towards Shanghai’s Landmark Buildings

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As the most salient elements of urban landscapes, commercial real estate developments occupy not just physical space on city streets, but also places in the hearts and minds of city residents who live among them.  Put differently, each such property is a brand, and what that brand means to individuals in the community is determined by the experiences they have with the building — impressions of the property’s architecture, contact with its tenants, stories heard about it in the news or in local community circles and so on.

These feelings that ordinary residents have for a given commercial building, which we may refer to collectively as local public sentiment towards the building, are generally not a prime concern for commercial real estate industry players. Much more important to these players is market sentiment, the market being limited to corporate real estate decision-makers.

But public sentiment is important in so far as people are important, and at Sofia Group we do think people are important. We therefore decided last November to conduct an online survey of public sentiment towards some of the Shanghai’s landmark developments. The results, which you can read below, should be taken only as food for thought; they represent only the opinions of our 173 respondents and not necessarily the collective opinions of the city’s entire resident population.  If you would like to share your thoughts on this survey with us or have a question about it, feel free to send us an email at research at

No. of Respondents: 173

Estimated percentage Chinese: 53.2%

Estimated percentage foreigners: 46.8%

Respondent occupations: 100% white collar workers

Shanghai’s Supertall Towers: Jin Mao, SWFC, Shanghai Tower

Question 1: Which of these three buildings has the most beautiful design?

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We were not completely surprised that most respondents chose Shanghai Tower as having the most beautiful design of the city’s three supertalls, but we frankly didn’t expect that so many (64.2%) would choose the new building over the architectural masterpiece that is Jin Mao (19.7%). Shanghai Tower  also scored at the top of other rankings in our survey, and it is possible that such favourable current public perceptions of the building are to some extent a result of the extensive press coverage it has received, as well as its newness and it being China’s tallest building. 

Question 2: Which one seems like the most enjoyable place to work?  

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It is easy to imagine why 59.5% of respondents think Shanghai Tower would be the most enjoyable supertall to work in given its abundant green spaces, restaurants and retailers spread over nine atriums, and unique design and environmental features. Even though probably none of our respondents have even entered the building, we think it likely that most respondents have read about these features given the amount of media coverage it has received. 

Most prestigious address for luxury brands

Question 3: Plaza 66, IFC, IAPM and L’Avenue are favorite properties for luxury and fashion industry firms. Based on your overall impressions of these four buildings, which do you feel is currently the most prestigious place for luxury and fashion brands to have an office?

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Of these buildings, Plaza 66 is the oldest and most established luxury brand base, but more of our respondents chose IFC (47.4%) over Plaza 66 (30.1%) as the most prestigious address for luxury industry companies. This is congruent with office rental rates at the two properties: IFC’s are far higher. Plaza 66 was still chosen by far more respondents than the impressive new IAPM mall (16.2%) on Huaihai Middle Road, however, as well as L’Avenue (6.4%) in Changning.

Most confidence-inspiring tower for a financial firm office

Question 4: Imagine you meet the CEO of a financial services firm and he hands you his name card. On the name card you see his office is located in one of the buildings listed below. Which one of the buildings will make you feel most strongly that the CEO’s company is a successful andoutstanding company?

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It is well known in city property circles that the IFC commands far higher rental rates than any other building in the Lujiazui Financial District, even far higher than its three supertall neighbors. The property’s city-leading rents, however, turned out to be slightly incongruent with the sentiments of our survey takers, 37% of whom said a Shanghai Tower address will inspire more confidence that a financial firm is an outstanding and successful company.

Building that lends most character to its neighborhood

Question 5: An architecturally distinctive building contributes atmosphere and character to its surrounding neighborhood. In your opinion, which of the following distinctive buildings in Shanghai contributes most to the character of its neighborhood?

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That most respondents choose the Longement Hotel building on Yanan Xi Road isn’t surprising given the property’s unique trapezoidal architecture and lack of nearby distinctive buildings. We feel compelled to admit, however, our own preference for the Cloud 9 building in Zhongshan Park: Its simple and soaring banana-shaped curve is a signal of unconventionality that subtly revolutionizes the tone of the entire area.

Most Prestigious Buildings  – Puxi / Pudong

Question 6: Based on what you know about each of the following buildings in Puxi, which one makes you feel most strongly that it is a prestigious building for a company to have an office?

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It would seem that building age is associated with prestige in the minds of our respondents when considering buildings in Puxi. Kerry Centre and Plaza 66, the two top-scoring properties, have both been around longer than the four properties that ranked below them.

Question 7: Based on what you know about each of the following buildings in Pudong,which one makes you feel most strongly that it is a prestigious building for a company to have an office?

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Once again Shanghai Tower came out on top, with 44.5% of votes. In contrast to Puxi, age doesn’t seem to correlate with prestige for buildings in Pudong for our respondents, with the IFC ranking ahead of older Jin Mao Tower. Interestingly, while more respondents choose IFC over SWFC as the building that best inspires confidence for financial tenants (question #4), the taller SWFC beat out IFC on this question of overall prestige.

Question 8: Which building do you feel best serves as a symbol of Shanghai?

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Is it newness, tallness, or true design genius that impelled so many more of our respondents to choose Shanghai Tower as an architectural symbol of Shanghai? At least our favourite, the Jin Mao, came in second place, albeit with fewer than half as many votes.