My first trip to Expo …

I have finally made it to Expo.  In hindsight, I should have gone when it first opened, when only 300,000 people were visiting each day, not the 600,000 I got to share the expereince with.  My tactic was to buy a night ticket (entry after 5pm) to avoid the hot weather and long queues.  Unfortunately both were out in full force.

When I was a youngster, I went to Expo 88 in Brisbane.  I remember it being quite an experience – a revelation of different cultures, with interesting buildings and people and events. 

Just like the Brisbane Expo (which I have to point out was – unbeknownst to most people in late-80s Australia – classified a ‘second tier’ Expo, as opposed to Shanghai’s ‘first tier’ Expo), the main focus for visitors is on the pavilions of each country.  The pavilions are arranged into geographic regions, with Asian pavilions clustered around the massive Chinese pavilion, and by increasing separation, Oceania, Europe, the Americas and Africa (perhaps ‘geo-political’ regions is a more accurate descriptor…)  I only got to see some of the latter regions, as I plan to go back to see others.

Arranged along one bank of the Huangpu, each pavilion is tasked with not only expressing the theme of Expo (the awkward “Better City Better Life”) but to draw the highest degree of interest in that individual country.  This attention seeking behaviour – as with people – creates buildings that are invariably colourful, often a little undignified (nay, tacky) and occasionally breath-taking. 

There are more sophisticated (ie simple) pavilions like the Canadian one…

and the Russian pavilion, which doesn’t seem too Russian in style though …


And the less sophisticated, like the giant-apple-with-a-piece-eaten-out-Ecopolis offered by a country I can’t recall … maybe Romania?…

And probably the worst of all, the Dutch pavilion, an unappealing mess of buildings and ramps.  I guess it did have a relatively short queue.


But the best pavilion by a wide margin is the British one.  Its “Seed Cathedral” is made up of 60,000 acrylic rods that house a collection of seeds from around the world, allow light into the pavilion and create an amazingly unique architectural sculpture.  The Cathedral sits on a folding ground plane, representing the piece of opened wrapping paper around a precious gift.  The pavilion is more about the importance of nature, and specifically biodiversity, rather than a marketing exercise for its home country (as most pavilions seem to be).  After the Expo, the seeds will be distributed to schools across the country.

The pavilion looks great from all angles. 


It has, however, one of the longest queues (around 5 hours) so I chose to enjoy it from afar only.  Here are some pics from the web of the inside.


Oh, and for anyone wondering, here is the Australian pavilion.  OK, I get it … we like the desert.  How that relates to “Better City, Better Life” is beyond me.


4 Responses to My first trip to Expo …

  1. luKe says:

    Dear Doctor

    I have not attended an Expo but they certainly register on my bullshit detector.
    Surely they are barometric indicators of human excess and appalling nationalist beauty pageants for mass consumption.

    What the *^#! is a Tasmanian to think of the red dunes of the “Australian” pavillion anyway???

    I suppose the Aussie pavillion is a non-too-subtle reference to our export of iron ore to the furnaces and forges of the mighty Middle Kingdom. And, presumably, the inference is that they had better not forget how important we 20 million people just north of the Antarctic are to them …

    • Yes, it does reinforce the role of Australia as the world’s miner, which is far away from the ‘better city’ theme. From a country with one of the highest rates of urbanisation (or rather, suburbanisation), it is a bit odd. I hear also that the inside is pretty lame and geared towards attracting more people to study at Australia’s universities. The idea that the Expo is about technological innovation and invention is well and truly lost.

  2. Pingback: My first year in Shangers | That Look Crayzy!

  3. bitbot says:

    You claim this expo is a cut above Expo ’88, but tell me this:
    Where is the monorail?

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