Shanghai Expo: the World in a City

By Tim Winter

1 November 2010

In 2010 the city of Shanghai hosted the largest, most spectacular and most expensive World’s Fair ever. Held just two years after the Beijing Olympics, the Shanghai Expo attracted a staggering 70 million visitors, ensuring China and the host city remained in the global spotlight for the 6 month duration of the event. Costing around US$45 billion dollars, and involving the relocation of 18,000 families and 270 factories, the Expo will permanently transform large areas of central Shanghai. Perhaps more significantly, the Expo, with its theme of Better City, Better Life, was held in a country currently experiencing a level of urban growth unparalleled in history. With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, many of which face uncertain futures, this mega event also confronted some of the key challenges facing humanity in the 21st Century.

Shanghai Expo brought together 190 countries, more than 50 non-governmental organisations, and a variety of multi-national corporations and institutions involved in urban governance. A unique forum, the Expo was a stage for many of the world’s most important players to communicate their ideas about the future, about urban sustainability and about what makes for a better life to an audience of 70 million. With the host city interpreting Better City, Better Life in terms of ‘harmony’, multi-million dollar pavilions proclaimed and enticed harmonies between man and man, man and nature, past and future, and some of the ways in which these might be created or maintained.

This CCR collaborative initiative offers a unique and richly innovative analysis of this globally significant event. A key outcome will be a book called Shanghai Expo: the world in a city. This will be complimented by a number of other initiatives including a photographic essay and collection of short video documentaries, via an integrated DVD/web initiative. Together these will powerfully capture the multitude of issues and intriguing questions that arise from this landmark event.