Shanghai Expo Closes With Focus On "Development through Development"

The Expo’s stated theme was “Better City, Better Life,” and organizers boasted it was the first World’s Fair devoted to the contemplation of cities.
November 6, 2010, 7am PDT | George Haugh
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Its finale Sunday included a "Shanghai Declaration" signed by all participants advocating for greener, more sustainable, and more equitable ones. "We have come to realize that people's understanding and pursuit of a better life are both the foundations and the engines of urban development," the official English translation stated. As the Expo's chairman unequivocally put it, "I think the key is now to solve the problems that have been brought about by development through development. The priority is development."

In one of the themed pavillions, visitors were introduced to the designs of Le Corbusier, whose rows of identical apartment towers have been more or less executed in much of urban Shanghai. In the Expo's telling, Corbusier "always designed cities as beautiful as possible, ‘with enthusiasm, with faith in love and beauty ' Regrettably, his works were not sufficiently appreciated by his contemporaries."

This topic touched a nerve in a city where forced demolitions and associated relocations have become commonplace. There would have certainly been no Expo without it. Building the fair required stripping the footprint clean of the shipyard and worker housing that once stood there, relocating 10,660 families in the process. In the months ahead, local authorities will flatten the site again, as the first Expo devoted to sustainable urban development is destined to be landfill.

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Published on Monday, November 1, 2010 in Fast Company
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