The current population of Shanghai is estimated to be 18 million people, with the figure predicted to rise to 25 million by 2020. For those curious to know what a city of this size will look like, a visit to the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre provides a sobering experience.
In just under eight years a total of £38bn has been spent, with 18 000 families moved from the Hangpu River site along with 270 factories and businesses. The Jiangnan shipyard employed 10 000 workers but was relocated to the new offshore shipbuilding base at Changxing Island to make way for the Expo. The underground system has been doubled in size and now has 410km of track.
The speed of the recent building work is, of course, nothing new to the people of the city. The centre also includes a bewildering selection of ‘before and after’ photographs – bewildering due to the fact that many of them were taken as recently as the early 1990s. The images allow local people to guess which skyscraper now stands on the site of that particular row of houses or rice field.
Whether the most recent urban regeneration projects are successful examples of the Expo slogan ‘Better City, Better Life’ will not be apparent for several years. For a city expected to accommodate seven million new inhabitants over the next ten years, it can only be hoped that bigger means better.
Pete Collard is a postgraduate curator studying an MA Curating Contemporary Design, at Kingston University in partnership with the Design Museum