Large Scale Projects to Create New Centralities in Shanghai. Potentials for the Regular City

The studio focuses on a study of capacity of big urbanistic projects to direct the growth and transformation of large metropolises. It takes the example of Shanghai and its Expo 2010 to investigate their potential for creating one or several centralities in this diverse, dynamic city.

This project forms part of research into the regular city and urban grid patterns, focusing here on “large scale projects” in the form of big events, with the aim of understanding to what extent these major projects represent urban design operations that have to be considered in several design cycles. The original design responds to an initial challenge such as the World Expo, but it then requires a different approach that takes into account the construction of the real city. Here we will consider the potential of the second project, or second cycle, of the initial big project.

Shanghai is a city that has become a global metropolis in just 50 years, with an exponential population growth from two to twenty million. This dynamic has materialised with major expansions to the west and south, particularly worthy of mention recently are the nine new towns that direct growth dynamics in the various geographic directions.

The major Expo 2010 project, quite close to the Bund and to Pudong, occupying over 500 hectares of land and resting on both banks of the Huangpu River, will probably serve to rethink the development of a large central place for the metropolis as a whole. Designing multiple centralities seems a positive strategy to balance gigantic global metropolises.

The strategic selection of the site was probably the central decision in the Expo project, which also materialised with a very generic definition of street layout for traffic, organising maxi-blocks and heavy infrastructures to cross the river and connect with the rest of Shanghai by Metro. Expo in 2010 left the city few pavilions for reuse, and some large sport and convention amenities, but the rest was presented as “available” space equipped with infrastructure for urban development.

Studio research will serve to explore the Expo 2010 project’s capacity to evolve or introduce a derivative or second project with the aim of simulating the development of a major metropolitan centrality that straddles the two banks of the river as the site of central multifunctional activities that Shanghai could host in the mid- and long term.

Further, reflection on the regular city project as a powerful idea for present-day city design could provide a methodological basis for understanding the judicious proportion of the grid and the block composition system that is so important to the construction of a good city.