My legs were feeling the long walking of the past few days, so I wanted to stay closer to the neighborhood, not trek so far. Decided to go to the Shanghai Municipal Planning Museum, at Peoples Square.
(Peoples Square is actually a circle, the old racetrack from the British Concession. The peoples' park itself is actually just the southern half of that oval, with the northern half taken by grand government buildings.)
Took awhile for me to get there -- was using a new map, and I made a mistake in judging distances, took a turn early, and ended up going 'way out of my way. Ended up walking a lot anyway.
Shanghai is hosting an international exhibition in 2010, and there are already signs up and countdowns posted until Shanghai receives the international attention that Beijing will get in the 2008 Olympics. I suspect this also drives the flurry of largescale construction going on here.
Biggest takeaway from the content itself was how much, much larger Shanghai is expected to be very soon. If you look at a map, there are clear rings of growth... the old Chinese walled city of a millennia ago was expanded by the international concessions a century ago... suburbs stretched west, north and south beyond this a half-century ago... recently Pudong has had the growth, on the eastern side of the river. What shocked me was how Shanghai is expected to grow eastward to the sea, out to where Pudong Airport is now. It seems to be about twice the area of Shanghai today.
But the tone of the museum was funky. Lots of bureaucratese on the displays, lots of five-year planning. Any cumberous processes we in Silicon Valley endure are child's play compared to the processes these people go through.
The place had a lot of kiosks. I recognized Director transitions on the majority of them. Some may have been Flash. PostScript and Photoshop handled the print displays, and on some pieces I could see clear signs of Illustrator stylistics. Felt a little strange.
This was the first museum I went to in China this trip, and may be the last one. I'm not really keen on knowing what I'm to think; I'd rather discover it myself. The big draw of this museum is the miniature Shanghai of the future, taking up most of one floor of the museum, with a viewing area on the floor above. I could recognize a few landmarks, but not the shape of the outlying areas. The Bund was but a tiny spec, even Oriental Pearl TV Tower was nearly lost in the plethora of newer, larger buildings.
The other aspect of this museum's reputation which drew me was the recreation of a 1930s Shanghai street. This merges smoothly into a shopping mall beneath Peoples Square... I was thinking it was looking awfully tacky until I realized I had walked too far into it and had completely entered the mall. The actual "street" in the basement takes some architectural elements from Shanghai at the time, and has blown-up photos that you could pose for photos in. Felt sort of like learning about Venice by going to the Venetain Hotel in Las Vegas, except the latter has better production values. Even the cloud ceiling was similar, except the one in Shanghai doesn't move and change time of day.
The street didn't move me... instead of opium dens and brothels and trash and odors, there were waffle stands and knickknack shops and cleanly-swept floors in the basement of a large building.
Upper floors of the museum did have more on historical Shanghai, but these were mostly uncredited old photos that I could see just as well in a book in San Francisco. Not even a map to show where the old location was in today's Shanghai. It's a bit jarring to see an old photograph of an old building and to see it placed in time as "Ming (1668-1870)" or whatever... I would really like to have known in what year the photo was taken, perhaps by whom, or have it placed on a map, or juxtaposed against what the site looks like today, or see it surrounded by other photographs of the same site in different years. I'm pretty sure there weren't any Polaroid Land Cameras during the Ming reign....
Took the subway back, got a little lost in traffic coming out of the station, and got hit in a traffic accident for the first time. It was a blocked-by-construction intersection, and I was on her side of the crosswalk in the final half of the intersection... she on a bicycle, and just didn't stop. I didn't raise a fuss, 'cause she wasn't expecting anyone before the intersection, but still, you should be able to use your brakes or turn away, hon.
Got a meal and some beer trekking back to the hotel, and conked. Saturday is my last full day on the old side of the river, and I want to wake up early, see how people live before the traffic picks up.