Shanghai Expo 2010

June 17, 2010 at 2:15 am | Posted in China | Leave a comment

We happened to be in shanghai for the expo so we thought we’d take a look. Years ago, world fairs were big business and featured state of the art engineering, examples being Crystal palace in 1851 (with lots of new-age industrial machinery) and Chicago in 1893 (with the first ferris wheel). So many countries were represented, but it was obvious which countries had put money and thought towards their respective pavilions.

The chinese made a huge deal of this expo and had poured millions into the advertising and construction of their pavilion. The Chinese were really excited about it so the queue for their pavilion was absolutely huge – we decided to skip it but i would (maybe harshly) predict some blatant chinese propaganda. Some of the pavilions were genuinely interesting but the majority of them were nothing special. I think kelly summed it up in one of her frequent inspirational speeches when she said that before the internet the fair must have been fascinating when all these random countries came together and showed off all their wonderful stuff. Nowadays, you can find out anything about any country (except North Korea) by looking on the web. (kelly: i didn’t quite say that. i think traveling around to different countries is another good way to learn about them…)

The chinese pavilion (above). We visited the expo on the 2nd day of opening so the place was packed and the chinese pavilion would have taken up about 3 hours of queuing to get in, so we missed out.

South korean pavilion

The finnish pavilion was one of the coolest and most enjoyable. each pavilion was drastically different. some were really amazing feats of architecture and thinking while others were just blocky buildings. we found that the outsides of some buildings were more interesting than their interiors (see below…).

this is an image from inside the finnish pavilion, which was my favorite interior. the pavilion gave a clear feeling of what finland might be like and was designed brilliantly. there were interactive cameras that were fun and allowed you to later see yourself floating on the walls – a lot of the pavillions we saw didn’t have much interactivity so this was nice. the finnish pavilion also had a virtual scrapbook type thing that took your pic and put a sight from your own country in the background. just fun stuff. also, they showcased cool design pieces like technology, clothes, kitchen design, lighting, etc. maybe it’s just because i like design, but i feel that showing this kind of thing is much more interesting and relevant to a world expo than showing cheesy postcard type stuff (saudi arabia) or small museum exhibits (many smaller countries).

One of my favourite designs was croatia – simple but effective

A piece of irony from the north koreans – it was closed

estonia exterior. pretty cool.

The interior of the estonian pavilion was really weird. there were just loads of humungous piggy banks scattered around. it was wasted on me. well i(kelly) didn’t waste the opportunity for an awkward photo with mike brennan.

The usa clan walking past the boring USA pavilion. GO TRIBE! GO USA!

We queued up for 2 hours to see the saudi arabian pavilion. It had the worlds largest screen inside which showed a promotional video that was not really worth seeing. it also featured a human conveyer belt that was equally unimpressive. at least the outside of the building looked cool. oh, and the brilliant w&m USA kids brought a deck of cards. it’s amazing how fast 2 hours of waiting in the heat surrounded by curious asians can go when you’re playing asshole.

the giant screen and conveyer belt. wow.

The prize for the most intriguing piece of architecture went to the british pavilion. yes, this pic doesn’t really do the building justice. the symetrical dome shaped structure was made up of tons of long (5 ft?) needles. the needles poked from inside to outside. during the day, the needles filtered light into the building, which saves energy and is just cool. at night, light from inside shines through the needles so that the structure glows. i think this building did an amazing job of showing of smart design and cool technology while still looking understated and very british. too bad the line was too long to wait in – i would have loved to check out the exhibition inside.

The best thing about the expo was the architecture on offer. It was fun to just walk round and see some of the crazy buildings, but the exhibitions themselves were not as inspiring as they could have been. We tried to think of ways to improve future fairs but the best we could come up with was for every country to have a selection of their best beers available to try. also, there were so many dull exhibitions (esp compared to the cool exteriors) that we got a bit disheartened. or maybe we’re just spoiled americans. glad we went though.


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