on September 9, 2007
I never would have gleaned from the name of this museum how entertaining it is or how much I’d love it. Located adjacent to Renmin Park and across from the Shanghai Museum, it’s a brand-new building with a beautifully stark, mostly glass design. Its six floors are wonderfully planned (à propos for the subject, I suppose), with an open atrium in the center of the first few floors.We paid the 40-yuan entrance fee and were immediately delighted by the lobby’s offerings: air-conditioning and restrooms. After we got over our thankfulness for these small miracles, we were even more taken with the lobby’s grander offerings: a golden, two-story model of Shanghai’s most famous skyscrapers and a smaller-scale model of the city in the future. Everything was completely accessible, so you could move around it and even touch the model (maybe too accessible—my friend promptly knocked over an 8-inch skyscraper).After climbing the escalator to the next floor, we found even more interesting exhibits, mostly made up of models and photographs of the city’s past, current, and projected buildings. It was around this time that we became equally interesting to the school groups visiting the museum; we were asked to stop and pose in their pictures every few minutes. In between photo ops, we really enjoyed the visuals, even if actual background information in English was sparse.The third and fourth floors are where the trip really becomes worthwhile; they house a scale model of Shanghai in 2020, with colored buildings representing buildings that exist today and clear ones representing vast future projects. The model takes up the entire floor and can be viewed from above on the next floor as well. As we walked around it, a worker crouched in the middle of the fake Huangpu River, painstakingly adding trees and bushes to its banks. The entire model is a visual masterpiece.The next floor is devoted to temporary art exhibits. While we were there, there was one examining Austrian art in public spaces and one featuring scenes of Provence painted in Shanghai. Both were well worth a look. No one else ducked into these during our visit, and it was nice to enjoy the art in private (save one sleepy guard in the corner).The top floor provided a glimpse into the mindset with which the government is pursuing the urban projects we learned about on previous floors. Multimedia exhibits present a whitewashed view of the displacement of citizens and traditional housing so that bulldozers can make room for the new skyscrapers. It was disturbing to take in the propaganda after seeing such beautiful, glossy representations of the Shanghai of the future. All of the floors add up to a great look at urban planning, though, and I can’t think of a city where that would be a more relevant or fascinating subject.The museum is open 9am-5pm Monday through Thursday, and 9am-6pm Friday through Sunday. It offers a restaurant and a gift shop.
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