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Life After Expo

Expo site

After more than a decade of planning, city-wide infrastructure upgrades and six months of celebrating human endeavour and progress, the Shanghai World Expo has finally drawn to a successful conclusion. Although the event initially experienced teething issues and low turnouts, it quickly rebounded to finish strongly as the best attended expo in history, while simultaneously exceeding its target of 70 million visitors. Yet for many Shanghai residents the fair’s legacy will not be defined by its accomplishments, but by the redevelopment that eventually emerges from its sprawling site on banks of the Huangpu River.

At over double the size of the country of Monaco, the 5.28 square kilometre Expo site is the largest ever. Straddling both sides of the river, Shanghai may find its successful redevelopment to be an even greater challenge than hosting the event itself. Importantly, the city hopes to avoid the under-utilisation that has befallen the grounds of numerous past world expos, as well as several relics of Beijing’s Olympic Games. In early October, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng made clear once initial plans have been finalised they will be made publicly available to generate feedback. He also promised a large portion of the site will be developed for ‘public interests’.

Over the past six months, the Expo Theme Forum has been held in six of Shanghai’s neighbouring cities to discuss topics relating to the event’s central tenet of ‘Better City, Better Life’. These conferences have brought together both local and international representatives from government, academia and business to share ideas on the future development of sustainable cities. This knowledge base will be used in not only planning the Expo site’s redevelopment, but the city as a whole over the next several decades.

Clues as to what the city can expect have slowly trickled out. At last month’s forum in Hangzhou, Shanghai’s Vice Mayor Yang Xiong stated, “Growth at the expense of the environment is unsustainable and economic development alone is not a guarantee of a liveable city.” Furthermore, an environmental report released by the city government in August said the site would be turned into a “concentration area of modern services mainly for exhibitions, conferences, activities and accommodation”.

Before redevelopment can begin, much of the Expo site must be demolished. In accordance with International Exhibitions Bureau rules, the intergovernmental body that oversees world expos, all foreign and corporate pavilions will be removed from the grounds. Several of these pavilions have already found future homes off-site. Taiwan’s exhibition hall was purchased in September by the city of Hsinchu for RMB 97.2 million and will be reassembled on the island next year. Sweden has also signed an agreement to relocate their building to Wuxi, while Prague newspapers have reported the Czech Republic’s pavilion will move to Czechoslovak-Chinese Friendship Farm near Beijing; Australia took the unusual route of auctioning off its facilities through the pavilion's website.


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