USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Sustainable Bubble.

The theme of Shanghai’s World Expo: “Better City, Better Life”.  The premise of this year’s Expo revolves around the idea of implementing sustainable actions in order to better the future of our planet and its resources.  Therefore, the pavilions designed for the Expo by the 192 countries and 50 organizations participating, all had to incorporate a strong sense of sustainable ideas within their designs.  Whether it was by use of materials, energy efficiencies, or simply by reduction of resources used, each pavilion had a unique way of promoting their country in a sustainable fashion.

However, the more often I visited the Expo, the more I began to think about the implications that an exhibition based on the idea of a “Better City, Better Life” was having on the city of Shanghai, outside of the Expo boundaries.  While inside the Expo, the use of electric buses, solar power, and water waste efficiencies are extremely apparent.   Although, while the inside of the Expo is taking a sustainable approach, how is Shanghai being affected as a whole, not just at the Expo grounds?

At a cost of about $45 billion, there has been more money spent on solely preparation alone for the Expo than that of the Beijing Olympics.  This money went to the opening of six new subway lines, a “highline-esque” boardwalk along the extents of the site, a revamping to almost every portion of the city, and a clean-up of the Expo site itself.  In addition to this, Shanghai had to prepare for the traffic of over 73 million visitors – many of whom will be traveling by airplane, automobile, and other forms of unsustainable transportation methods.  The city had to use resources that is otherwise would not have had to use in order to accommodate for the abundance of people.

As today is the final day, the decisions about what will happen to each pavilion following the close of the Expo will need to be broadcasted.  The general public does not know what will happen to almost all but four of these pavilions: China Pavilion, Expo Center, Theme Pavilion and Expo Performance Center.  I find it somewhat ironic that an event with such an emphasis on sustainability will be tearing down virtually all of the pavilions, except for the aforementioned structures.  With tons of steel, glass, and concrete being used in the pavilions, it becomes curious to see what will happen to all these materials following the close.  While some of the pavilions will be torn down and reconstructed, many have the possibility of simply turning to wasted materials.

In an article from NPR, “Critics Worry About Shanghai Expo’s Legacy,” by Louisa Lim, she discusses how an artist, Chen Hanfeng has a piece on exhibit in which he displays “a bubble machine hooked up to an IV tube, belching bubbles into a cage. He’s taking a sly poke at the Expo slogan ‘Better City, Better Life’ by titling his work ‘Bubble City, Bubble Life.’”   As Hanfeng discusses his exhibit, he states, “I think the concept of Expo starts from utopia, utopian-style architecture, and futuristic imagination. It’s kind of like a bubble.  After the Expo is gone, everything’s going to be gone, right?”  Although the final verdict on the Expo site is yet to be announced, this statement seems to be valid at this point.  It seems that once the bubble pops, the ramifications of the Expo will then start to ensue.  It is not until then that we can see how the demolition of the pavilions will endorse or contradict the overall idea of the Expo: “Better City, Better Life.”  Until then…


Filed under: Architecture, China, Shanghai Expo 2010, Sustainability, Uncategorized


The views and opinions contained in this blog are solely those of the individual authors and do not represent the views and opinions of the University of Southern California or any of its officers or trustees.



AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu