In Shanghai the fair has come to town – in fact, the world has come. As China takes a bigger role on the world’s stage, so it has made the world’s largest city its platform for global trade and technology, launching EXPO 2010 this week. Our own recent visit found the city in a fever of pre-showcase building and planning, with work going on everywhere. This is a very big deal for the city and like the Beijing Olympics, it’s being taken very seriously. It has cost an estimated US$54 billion, after all.
What does all this hold for the visitor though? Well, essentially it means an opportunity to see a special city in a unique, temporary state. And it’s a pretty impressive state, featuring pavillions of all shapes and sizes (with exhibitions from 240 countries) vying for attention on both sides of the Huangpu River. It’s something of a fantasy city within a city.
Weird New Worlds
The 1889 World’s Fair gave us the Eiffel Tower of course, but hardly any of this year’s bold buildings are staying. However, for the next six months this array of unique objects will redefine the views around central Shanghai. Among the structures are China’s own Pavilion – one of the few permanent pieces – which looks like an ancient monument redesigned for space travel, and the Spanish Pavilion whose impressive construction takes its influence from wicker basket weaving. We’re not quite so sure about the creepy giant baby inside, but at least it’s certain to raise the eyebrows of the expected 70 million visitors. (As mentioned above, we were a little early for a good view of their full glory, but there’s an amazing photo gallery over at Boston.com)
The Green City
Interestingly, it’s the UK’s own submission to this bizarre mini-metropolis that is garnering the most attention. Named the Seed Cathedral, its ecologically-inspired design (by Thomas Heatherwick) also seems to be the most in-tune with the EXPO slogan of “Better City, Better Life”, promoting as it does, ideas of biodiversity and ‘the green city’. Also dubbed by some as “the dandelion”, the structure contains some 6000 varieties of seed contained inside 60,000 transparent acrylic rods, which sway in the breeze and shimmer when illuminated. Genuinely awesome.
If you’re planning a visit to Shanghai in the near future, check out our review of the Peninsular Shanghai, one of the city’s newest and most luxurious hotels – and don’t forget that you can book direct flights from London Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic.
Top image from Flickr by tan ah beng.
Have you visited, or are you planning to visit EXPO? What’s worth seeing? Comments and suggestions are welcome as always.