ONE YEAR ON.
THE LEGACY OF THE SHANGHAI EXPO 2010
BY SUMITRA UPHAM


"Shanghai 2010 has inspired a mind-set of cooperation, solidarity and openness, which are essential to tackle the major challenges facing humanity.”
Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales, secretary-general of the International Bureau of Expositions.

The Shanghai Expo 2010 has placed China and specifically Shanghai on the map for good design. Through its didactic exhibitions, the China Pavilion has educated thousands of visitors on the current challenges facing cities today and offered advice into ways in which situations can be improved in the future. However, in May 2011 the Pavilion will be demolished.

What will the legacy of the Shanghai Expo behold? Has its’ very existence improved the quality of metropolitan life? And if so how?



The world Expo Site has become a global village where people can not only see rare cultural treasures from around the world but also get a taste of the diversity of the world's cultures through its inter-cultural activities. In 2010, the world Expo was held in Shanghai with a driving theme of "Better City, Better Life". This theme represents an international central concern for future policy making, urban strategies and sustainable development.



The city of Shanghai in 2010 immersed itself in a drastic physical transformation when it hosted the Word Expo. As a result the city was forced to reconsider its relationship with its people and its land and invested in buildings with national and international importance. Shanghai is a city of juxtapositions with a long and complicated history. Once a magnet for foreigners because of its sophistication and eccentricity, it has re-emerged after decades of eclipse to become the economic powerhouse fueling much of Chinas fevered growth.
One year on, I visited the site of the 2010 World Expo, where The China Pavilion now stands alone, to discover the impact that this world cultural event has had on the city of Shanghai and to gain an insight into what its’ legacy might be.

The Expo experience begins almost immediately as you walk into the entrance and into the waiting area where you are confronted with a photographic display that showcases the construction, infrastructure and operating procedures behind the pavilion.



The photographs symbolise the unity, identity and progress of the Chinese people and reflect the prosperity, innovations and improvements of the whole society of this great nation.

The pavilion is divided into sections that addressed issues surrounding the theme of ‘Better City, Better Life’. The five sections include; blending of diverse cultures in the city, economic prosperity in the city, innovations of science and technology in the city, remodelling of communities in the city and interactions between urban and rural areas. The Pavilion tells the story of a country trying to find its place in the modern globalized world. The first part includes a movie that tells a somewhat romantic story of the city of Shanghai that within 30 years grew from a mecca for post-Cultural Revolution economic degradation into a peaceful world financial center. The rest of the show follows suit, including an exhibit that displays four different versions of a Chinese living room.



The first is “1978,” complete with a transistor radio and antiquated wooden tables and chairs. The last is “2008,” complete with new, art deco couches and a plasma screen TV. This is obviously meant to represent the progress China has achieved since gaige kaifang.

Later, the visitor walks through a night scene of an ancient Chinese city, with the scene taking the form of a moving, ancient Chinese painting. The imagery is stunning and a reminder of China’s history that dates back thousands of years before Columbus arrived in America.



Expos build bridges that connect different spheres of society and have the ability to translate complex and high-level concepts into a universal visual language easily accessible to people from across the globe.

The Expo 2010 as a whole presented a unique opportunity for the people of China to gain an insight into the ways in which other nations are developing and urban regeneration. It has most definitely allowed for an international exchange of expertise in ways in which we might use design in generating better cities and an overall better quality of life.

When the China Pavilion is demolished in a few months’ time, there is hope that the legacy will live on through the urban best practices and concepts that have been integrated into daily work of the construction of the Expo and through a better urban life and the modernization of rural areas.



The Expo plays an important role in showcasing the 5000 year splendid civilization of the Chinese nation, the remarkable achievements in China across decades and the determination of all Chinese people to build the country into a moderately prosperous society all-round.

“Better City, better life” is a challenging theme to address considering a quest for a better life has run through the urban history of mankind. However, through different sub-themes, The Shanghai Expo 2010 creates blueprints for future cities and harmonious urban life styles, providing an extraordinary educational and entertaining platform for visitors of all nations. It has set a standard for all future expos.

Only the future can behold what the lasting effects of the 2010 Expo will have on the nation of China and the rest of the world, but there is reason to believe that it will be significant.