Artist’s render of the proposed 838-m-tall prefabricated steel skyscraper, Sky City (Broad Group)

Trends

Zhang Yue compares himself to Napoleon, insists Sky City will happen

11 June 2015 | By Rod Sweet | 1 Comment

Zhang Yue, the Chinese developer famous for building prefabricated steel towers practically overnight, has said his ambitious plan to erect the world’s tallest building in a matter of months will go ahead.

“I have my reputation to think of – we’ll build it,” the Chinese air-conditioning magnate said, adding: “And in a couple of years we’re going to be booming.”

In February he predicted that all necessary permissions for the 838-m-tall Sky City residential tower (pictured) would be obtained within three or four months, and that construction would start in late 2015 or early 2016, the BBC has reported.

However, a spokesperson for his company, Broad Group, admitted that because buildings higher than 350m need approval from the national government, the official start date remained unclear.  

Watermelons

Napoleon conquered the world with the sword, but he said the greatest conquest is that of the heart. Only Sky City can conquer the hearts and minds of this turbulent era– Zhang Yue

In July 2013 Broad Group held a ground-breaking ceremony to mark the start of construction of the 220-storey residential tower, set to be 10m taller than the world’s tallest building now, Dubai’s 828-metre Burj Khalifa.

At the time Zhang Yue promised it would be topped out in just eight months thanks to Broad’s steel prefabrication technique, which this year enabled it to erect a 57-storey tower in just 19 days.

An eight-month build period would be remarkable, considering that it took five years to construct the Burj Khalifa.

But the project was quickly shrouded in confusion as conflicting reports emerged about whether Sky City had the necessary approvals. 

A year later, the site in the industrial city of Changsha, Hunan province – where Broad’s headquarters are – remained a vacant lot with watermelons growing on it

Conquering hearts

Interviews with the company by BBC News, however, show that the Sky City dream is very much alive in Changsha.

“The country’s legal system and standards are still catching up with us,” said factory manager Xiao Changgeng. “I’m sure the government will soon start supporting us with new policies and standards.”

In the past few days, according to the BBC, Hunan province has “signalled further support for the construction of modular buildings”.

And while there is no official word on approvals from central government, the maverick businessman Zhang Yue himself remains stridently confident, even comparing himself to Napoleon.

“Napoleon conquered the world with the sword, but he said the greatest conquest is that of the heart,” he said. “Only Sky City can conquer the hearts and minds of this turbulent era.”

He has argued that the Sky City concept would revolutionise both the construction process and urban planning. He says the Broad technique reduces waste and construction-site pollution, while leaving a recyclable structure. And organising communities vertically – Sky City would house 17,400 people – reduces car journeys. 

One metre taller than Dubai

You just have to build it tallest. One metre less won’t do. It has to be the tallest building in the world, even one metre taller than the one in Dubai– Zhang Yue

Sky City is about “washing away… prejudices – like formatting a hard drive”, he said, according to the BBC.

“They’ll realise this building has everything you need in it. They’ll notice it’s saved a lot on road construction, land construction, and that people who live here have a lot of time for leisure instead of bouncing around on the road all day. Their quality of life will be higher. They’ll be happier. Things like this.

“It has huge benefits for future generations. If you tear it down 500 years from now it will leave a steel skeleton which is a resource for them, not just a load of rubbish. That’s what this is about.”

He said he would not “be shaken”.

“You just have to build it tallest. One metre less won’t do. It has to be the tallest building in the world, even one metre taller than the one in Dubai.

“With Sky City, we face even more problems than we imagined. Lots of people went against us, criticised us, but I won't be shaken. And even if there was 10 times as much criticism we wouldn’t budge

. “I have my reputation to think of – we’ll build it.

“And in a couple of years we’re going to be booming.”

Photograph: Artist’s render of the proposed 838-m-tall prefabricated steel skyscraper, Sky City (Broad Group)

See also: Does Broad Group want to be the world’s affordable housing provider?