The Expo Afterlife
Alvaro Siza Vieira, The Portugal Pavilion, Lisbon, 1998. Photo: Blaine Brownell.
As the widely celebrated Expo 2010 Shanghai China comes to a close, news reports indicate success by the numbers. A record 73 million visitors attended the Expo from 246 countries and international organizations—more than any previous world exposition (although some 95 percent of the attendees were Chinese). The event was certainly unforgettable, as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao claimed during an Expo forum last Sunday, and resulted in many remarkable works of architecture. However, isn’t success also measured by the long-term contribution an expo site makes to its home city?
I returned this week from Lisbon, home of the 1998 world expo (Expo '98) that commemorated half a millennium of Portuguese oceanic discoveries. Upon visiting the Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations), I was struck by how lively the site is today, in addition to how well the area is integrated with the pre-Expo urban fabric.
I mentioned my observations to Henrique Cayatte, president of the Portuguese Design Centre and design consultant for Expo '98. Although he bemoaned that the site had changed and many new structures had been added, Cayatte attributed the current success of the Expo site to his team’s prioritization of its afterlife. “We wanted to avoid the mistakes of Seville,” Cayatte said in response to the ghost town left behind after the 1992 Spanish expo, Expo '92.
When I asked his opinion of the Expo 2010 Shanghai site’s future potential, he shook his head, adding, “Never before had I seen barbed wire enclosing an expo site.” Perhaps once the control fencing is removed and temporary uses are replaced with long-term programs, however, this $47 billion Chinese investment may also have a chance to enhance the future life of Shanghai.