Urban Planning Museum!


After a few failed attempts, I was finally able to make it to the Urban Planning Museum (or Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center for short). This was the museum I was most excited to visit during my stay in Shanghai. I decided to go on my own without telling anyone, because the last couple times I had tried to visit with other people, we would never be able to make it. As a group, we are always waiting for someone in the shower or waiting for someone to get dressed, and then we wander off while waiting, and no one has a working phone anymore because I guess $10 is too expensive for a phone card. Then people get hungry while waiting for the wanderers to come back and want to get food before we go. Then they want to wait for people who are still in class because we might as well wait another 45 minutes. Then that becomes two hours. Then it is rush hour. People want to take the subway since a $5 cab split 4 ways is too much, etc. This is how a departure time of 11am is too late to make it to a museum that closes at 6pm.

This is the first thing you see when you enter the museum. It's also the only thing you see when you are looking through the locked doors of the closed museum because you arrived too late.

This is the first thing you see when you enter the museum. It’s also the only thing you see when you are looking through the locked doors of the closed museum because you arrived too late.

Anyways, the Urban Planning museum was a 40-minute subway ride to People’s Park. By myself, I was able to make that journey in… 40 minutes! That was 4 hours less than the last attempt. I spent about three hours at the museum, a majority of which was spent looking at the massive model city of Shanghai. It took up the majority of the third floor. The model was impressively detailed, trees and all. It also had future projects that were lit up with LED lights to show what the city will look like in the future. The model city was beautiful, however it was a little outdated.

Model city of Shanghai, the highlight of the museum.

Model city of Shanghai!

Now don’t get me wrong, I thought the museum was awesome. It’s just that it was less about predicting Shanghai’s future and more about predicting Shanghai present from the year 2000. For example, the model city was very outdated. Buildings that were canceled 7 years ago are still on there. Many building that were built have designs that are very different from the original conception, but their 2004 renderings are still displayed. Some newer buildings aren’t even on the map. The model didn’t account for projects that were scaled up or down within the last ten years. The model was really neat and my favorite part of the museum. It’s just that it was a little 2000-late, along with most of the other exhibits in the museum.

I didn’t see it as a bad thing though. I think it was really neat to see what vision people had for today’s Shanghai. It was interesting to be able to see which projects got built, which didn’t, which got changed and by how much, which ones the museum didn’t see coming, etc. Being a skyscraper and urban planning enthusiast, I felt I went into the museum knowing a little too much already. The meaning of the museum was changed for me. It was less about what Shanghai could accomplish and more about what it has already accomplished.

The museum only reminded me how amazing Shanghai and the rest of China are when it comes to the rate of urban development and growth in the past decade. Ten years ago, if every city in the world had their own model depicting where they would be today, almost all would have less than half of the projects Shanghai has had come to fruition. This is one of the reason why I have enjoyed China so much. I can feel the progress and the futuristic attitude, which is a lot more exciting than America’s snail’s pace attitude. China is changing and developing very quickly, and I can’t wait to see where it will be in the future.

Bird's eye view

Bird’s eye view of downtown Shanghai.