Well, I’m thoroughly pooped. Over the past couple of days, Dad and I capped off our 9-day Cathay Pacific China Experience tour by spending a couple of days touring the huge and impressive “World Expo Shanghai 2010”.
Featuring exhibits from 250 countries and international organizations spread across a record 5.28 square km, this year’s World Expo theme is “Better City, Better Life”, with participants endeavoring to showcase, “…urban civilisation to the full extent, exchange their experiences of urban development, disseminate advanced notions on cities and explore new approaches to human habitat, lifestyle and working conditions in the new century.”
All this is to take place over 184 days stretching from May through until October 31 this year and is expected to attract over 70 million visitors during this time.
With something like 250,000 people expected to file through the turnstiles on each day Dad and I were to visit, we were bracing ourselves for LONG lineups and no doubt an amount of social claustrophobia. Luckily, we had some help on our side with the “powers that be” connected to our tour, organising transport to the Expo site from our hotel, and VIP access (basically skip the line-ups) for us to a selection of the most popular pavilions each morning of our 2-day visit.
Dad an I were thankful for the benefits our VIP inclusion brought about, but we also got a little frustrated with how much some of the group members pottered around in gift shops etc, thus slowing down the progress for the rest of us. We found ourselves breaking away from the pack early on both days, choosing to blaze our own trail as soon as we got the chance.
I could literally write the equivalent of 50 odd-pages of text describing all the amazing sites and sounds we encountered in the short space of time we had to explore the World Expo Shanghai 2010, but instead I’m going to provide a quick description of some of the major pavilions we visited (lifted from the official Expo website), followed by a quick couple of paragraphs on my take on each.
Here we go…
Canadian & USA Pavilions
Canadian Theme: The Living City: Inclusive, Sustainable, Creative
Highlights: C-shaped Structure
National Pavilion Day: July 1
Pavilion Area: Around 6,000 Square Meters
The pavilion touches upon the vitality of cities with the theme “The Living City: Inclusive, Sustainable, Creative.” The pavilion is the hub of a wide array of special events and activities. The presentation aims to give a brand-new impression of Canada to visitors, replacing stereotypes of cold and vast tracts of land.
It was kind of ironic, and lucky for us that this was the first VIP stop for us. The line was HUGE, but we were shuffled in through a side door which was pretty cool. There was some weird stuff going on with us being told we were to say we were reporters or some such thing, but we shrugged off the confusion and walked around, taking in all that was on offer.
It’s fair to say I wasn’t blown away by the Canadian effort. The building architecture sure is impressive (see below), but the whole thing (content-wise) appeared, in my opinion anyway, to have been put together by people in the east of the country (Ontario & Quebec). Everything I love about the country, the mountains and the great outdoors really didn’t have much representation at all, unless I missed it, and I think that was a real shame. After all, it’s that kind of content that had me captivated, when Canada came to town back in 1988 when the World Expo was held in Brisbane.
USA Theme: Rise to the Challenge
Highlights: Gray Steel Structure
National Pavilion Day: July 2
Pavilion Area: Around 6,000 Square Meters
The USA Pavilion is a mammoth gray steel structure meant to resemble an eagle stretching its wings in welcome. The pavilion presents a dynamic and emotional story that conveys four core concepts: sustainability, teamwork, health and the spirit of striving for success.
The exhibition tells the story of the American spirit of perseverance, innovation, and community-building in a multi-dimensional, hi-tech presentation. It presents the US as a place of opportunity and diversity where people come together to change their communities for the better.”
Not surprisingly, the USA effort was pretty impressive. The two audio-visual displays were well executed, especially the second show which centered around a young girl bringing a community together to beautify an ugly part of their neighbourhood. The display had it all including simulated rain, as a mist fell from the ceiling above during one section, which literally had a number of Chinese audience members reaching for and deploying umbrellas. Yup, I’m not kidding…
Disappointingly, in true U-S-A fashion, the last section of the pavilion you are herded into before you can exit is a hall of commercialism. Each of the pavilion’s commercial sponsors gets the chance to grab a pound of your flesh in a display that I just found to be tacky and unnecessary, on this scale at least, at an event like this.
British Theme: Building on the Past, Shaping Our Future
Highlights: Seed Cathedral, Wrapping Paper
National Pavilion Day: September 8
Pavilion Area: Around 6,000 Square Meters
The first World Expo came about in the United Kingdom and was then known as the Great Exhibition, held in the Crystal Palace at Hyde Park. This majestic metal-and-glass edifice was not only home to the extravaganza display of products from all over the world, but was also the iconic symbol of the world fair, being considered one of the most beautiful structures in the world until a fire destroyed it half a century ago.
Now, the United Kingdom has brought to Expo visitors a new version of the Crystal Palace – a dazzling cube formed by more than 60,000 slim and transparent acrylic rods containing seeds of different plants that were collected in a bio-diversity project.
Well, if nothing else, the British Pavilion was unique. As described, the structure the Poms brought to Shanghai was a large mass of structured glass rods containing plant seeds. The rods also acted as a means of bending light into the interior of the structure creating a naturally lit cathedral of sorts. I really didn’t learn much about Britain while I was being wowed by the architectural brilliance, but then again, I lived there for 3 years – I probably wasn’t going to be educated on anything new regardless.
Italian Theme: City of Man
Highlights: 20 Functional Modules
Designer: A design Team Led by Giampaolo Imbrighi
National Pavilion Day: June 2
Pavilion Area: Around 6,000 Square Meters
The design of the Italy Pavilion is inspired by the children’s game “pick-up sticks,” which is known as “Shanghai” in Italy. The rectangular pavilion has been laced with intersecting lines – representing pick-up sticks. It comprises 20 functional modules of different shapes, bounded by the “sticks.” They represent Italy’s 20 regions. The modules can be assembled into smaller structures.
Bravo! Magnifico! Definitely one of my favourite pavilions at this year’s Expo. Plenty to see and learn, the Italians certainly celebrate the best of Italy, showcasing a large number of arts, fashion, technology and products developed right across Italy. Dad and I explored every last inch of this impressive display and can highly recommend it as a must-see if you’re lucky enough to make it to the World Expo this year!
Australian Theme: ImagiNation
Highlights: Sculptured Curving Walls and a Red Ochre Exterior
National Pavilion Day: June 8
Pavilion Area: Around 4,800 Square Meters
Featuring sculptured curving walls and a red ochre exterior, the Australia Pavilion’s appearance is inspired by the world-famous Ayer’s Rock. The color of the pavilion’s red facade is made from the use of a special kind of steel, which is commonly used in Australia cities. It will change colors responding to the temperature and humidity of Shanghai.
The pavilion is a fun and relaxed place for people of all ages. Divided into three distinct but inter-related sections labelled “Journey,” “Discover” and “Enjoy,” the pavilion incorporates almost every aspect of Australian life. These include spectacular landscape, a strong and vibrant economy, rich culture, technological expertise and innovation, outstanding research and education, and Australia’s commitment to sustainable development.
Naturally, I’m going to be a little biased, but we Aussies did ourselves proud on this one. Being one of the biggest pavilions at the Expo and clearly receiving a considerable amount more of funding than others, Australia’s rustic looking contribution is a site to behold. The pavilion is filled with a rich array of visual and multi-media displays showcasing everything from our unique landscape, historical milestone’s, famous Aussies, technological achievements, and generally sold the outstanding lifestyle that all Aussie’s enjoy.
Considering how long we lined up to get in, Dad and I were both suitably impressed… especially when we were able to get our hands on a few beers from back home which we sat and enjoyed after a long day of exploring just one half of the massive Expo grounds.
Theme: Chinese Wisdom in Urban Development
Highlights: Traditional Dougong Style
National Pavilion Day: October 1
The main structure of the China Pavilion, “The Crown of the East,” has a distinctive roof, made of traditional dougong or brackets, which date back more than 2,000 years. The dougong style features wooden brackets fixed layer upon layer between the top of a column and a crossbeam. This unique structural component of interlocking wooden brackets is one of the most important elements in traditional Chinese architecture. Dougong was widely used in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-467 BC).
The contour design of the pavilion is based on the concept of “Oriental Crown, Splendid China, Ample Barn, and Rich People,” to express the spirit and disposition of Chinese culture. The pavilion will have a core exhibition area on the top floor, an experience area on the second and a functional area on the first. China’s achievements in urban development from ancient to modern times will be the core theme of the pavilion.
Obviously, one of the must-see destinations at the Expo was China’s impressive red inverted-pyramid-styled pavilion which housed displays from each of 30+ Chinese provinces and major cities. The whole thing was a visual feast for sure. After a quick walk-through, Dad wasn’t feeling so great, so he headed outside to take a load off, while I headed back in to try and take in as much as I could over a couple of hours or so.
A couple of hours was more than enough time for me at this stage of the game. The sheer number of bodies pushing their way around the Chinese Pavilion was almost a little too much to take at times, and considering how Dad was feeling, I’m glad he didn’t attempt to spend any more time in there.
The mind-set of the Chinese visitors was a little baffling to me at times. Like most other Expos in the past, each pavilion had a stamp that you could procure in an official “Expo Passport” which was considered to be the quintessential tourist souvenir. With passports in hand, the Chinese seemed to be all about the stamps and nothing else. If there was a lineup anywhere, they would elbow and push their way to the front, race into the areas of interest (often against the wishes and instructions of pavilion staff) and then race through the displays, looking at and experiencing basically nothing, grabbing their stamp and racing onto the next lineup. Odd.
But anyway, needless to say, the Chinese Pavilion is a must-see… just be ready to tackle the crowds en mass!
Rest of the World
Like I said earlier, it would literally take pages and pages of text to cover all that we experienced beyond the major pavilions I have covered above, so to summarise I’m instead providing a selection of images from the other parts and participants of the Expo. The whole “shebang” was delivered with an expertise and flair that I was certainly expecting from Shanghai and the host nation – China.
Dad and I managed to tick off most of the boxes we had going into our final couple of days in China, and after a frenetic week or so flying all over the country, we headed to Shanghai’s impressive airport where we said our goodbye’s and headed, once again, to our respective corners of the globe.
The entire once-in-a-lifetime experience was awesome – a real eye-opener, and I have to thank the crew at Cathay Pacific for making it all possible.
If you are interested at all in touring through China and seeing some of the amazing sites that make this country such a great tourist destination, check out the Cathay Pacific China Experience website, designed and developed by yours truly, and peruse through all the tour packages that they have on offer.