The Shanghai Expo Culture Park fills the massive gap left by the ocean of empty concrete surfaces created for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. Probably the most audacious urban renewal project currently under construction in Shanghai, the Shanghai Expo Culture Park forms a key component of the Huangpu riverfront revitalization on the Pudong side and part of the "Sponge City" blueprint to dramatically increase the amount of permeable surface area to help mitigate the risk of flooding and enhance the quality of the city's water supply.
You've probably wondered what the deal is with that huge artificial mountain they are building in Pudong on the way to the airport. That's part of the Expo Park. More on that further down. And more on everything else they are planning for the area, which is just staggering in its ambition.
The northeast part of the park has already been open since 2021 but it's mostly gone unnoticed, judging from how few people are visiting it right now. More people should definitely know about it. It's a huge, beautiful park with open green fields similar to Century Park in Pudong, with areas where visitors are allowed to step onto the grass. If you are looking for a green day out, this secret green space in Shanghai is one to check out before the rest of the city takes notice. Get to the northeast part of the park from the xxx metro station.
The rest of the park is scheduled to welcome visitors in 2024 when the whole thing gets finished and launched properly. The plans are huge. The Shuangzi Mountains, Shanghai Grand Opera House, Shanghai International Equestrian Center, and several stunning gardens, among others, are already generating buzz on Chinese media platforms. Its dimensions are comparable to the world-famous Central Park in New York, although it's about 1.5 square kilometers smaller. Even so, it'll be this city's largest green space by far.
In addition to the new cultural landmarks and green spaces covering an area of about two square kilometers along the Huangpu River, four pavilions from the Shanghai World Expo 2010 are setto remain and be integrated into the programming of the park. These are the pavillions from Russia, Italy, France, and Luxembourg, interesting architectural achievements themselves, and roundly looking like the HQs from James Bond movie supervillains.
With a mandate towards sustainability, a new forest of 25,000 trees has been planted, which occupies 90% of the park. The designers of the park, French landscape architect Agence Ter, comment that the space is "a living machine that speaks to the processes of transformation and recycling."
Coming Soon: The Big Developments
There are several long-awaited projects that are currently under construction in the southern section of the park, anticipated to be open to the public in 2024. (Fingers crossed.)
The construction of the Shuangzi Mountains is still in progress and is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Once finished, the Shuangzi Mountains will become the largest project within the Shanghai World Expo Culture Park, with an area of approximately 300,000 square meters. The main peak reaches a height of 48 meters, while the secondary peak stands at 37 meters, making the Shuangzi Mountains the most enormous man-made mountain in China.
A parking lot will be constructed inside this artificial mountain, providing over 1,500 parking spaces, including around 300 spaces with charging facilities for electric cars. An exhibition area will be built near the mountain's summit, serving as a venue for future art exhibitions. At the foot of the mountains, there is a children's playground that has been expanded from its original design of 4,000 square meters to 8,000 square meters.
Shanghai Grand Opera House
As an aspiring international city of global cultural influence, Shanghai needs a standout opera house -- and this is it. The striking building and surrounding open spaces resemble an unfolding fan, intended to capture the "dynamism of dance and the human body."
A spectacular open-air spiraling staircase connects the ground and rooftop while offering views across the city and riverbank. According to Norwegian architect Snøhetta, the entire design aims to "promote public ownership of the building for the people of Shanghai and beyond."
The roof will link to a large stepped plaza and can double as a public meeting place and a stage for large-scale events. The plaza is said to be open for visitor access 24 hours a day and provides a link down to the waterfront.
The building itself will host a 2,000-seat auditorium, with state-of-the-art acoustics, a smaller 1,200-seat stage, for smaller productions, and a third smaller auditorium for more experimental performances.
Shanghai International Equestrian Center
The Shanghai International Equestrian Center is China's first permanent professional equestrian venue capable of hosting international events. With an area of 3.32 hectares, the main complex encompasses a regulation-size competition field, a warm-up field, a training area, and stables, along with other cutting-edge competition facilities.
The venue also has top-notch amenities for spectators, including seating for 5,000 attendees, VIP stands, sky boxes, and other premium viewing facilities.
Shanghai Greenhouse Garden
The basic structure already in place, the Shanghai Greenhouse Garden is slated to feature remarkable plant species that are uncommon in China, including the largest domestic baobab tree.
By the time of the Spring Festival in 2024, the indoor landscape will be mostly finished, planners have stated.
World Flower Garden
A "World Flower Garden", yes, but the most important thing worth mentioning is the underground space within the structure. Besides the parking facility accommodating around 900 vehicles, it also features a tourist service center and commercial area. It will connect with the Houtan metro station, as well as the Shanghai Greenhouse Garden, the Shanghai Grand Opera House, and the International Equestrian Center, forming an underground space that serves as a jumping-off point for the other facilities.
Already Open to the Public: The North Park
The North Park features several notable features.
The Tranquil Forest, located in the southern part of North Park, is considered a natural extension of the Shuangzi Mountains. It's the largest ecological conservation forest within the park. Constructing this forest was, evidently, quite challenging due to its original site being occupied by a steel factory. To overcome the slag and debris left behind, the design team established a dedicated "soil factory" to fulfill the requirements for plant growth.
World Expo Garden
The World Expo Garden features an overall design inspired by European garden styles. The majority of landscapes within the garden are designed to preserve the industrial heritage of the past, with a particular focus on steel elements. Due to the Dapu Road Tunnel beneath the park, the garden has strict restrictions on land weight. As a result, the arbor plants in the garden area consist solely of species that were originally planted prior to the park's renovation, without any additions.
With an impressive area of 50,000 square meters, Shenyuan draws inspiration from the traditional gardens in the southern region of the Yangtze River during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. This distinctive garden deviates from the conventional private garden concept by substituting walls with towering trees, "exemplifying Shanghai's ethos of openness and inclusivity in its urban landscape".
The Music Manor is being constructed around the Shanghai Grand Opera House. The outdoor area of the MusicManor features an open stage and lawn areas, capable of accommodating up to 8,000 people. Once the park is fully developed, the Shanghai Greenhouse and Shuangzi Mountains will serve as the natural backdrop for the stage.
And hey, you can bring your pets along too and they've got a space dedicated just for them. And only for them. Pets are not allowed in the other areas of the park, unfortunately. The Pet Garden is at 2200 Shi Bo Da Dao with separate areas designated for larger and smaller dogs. (Reservations are required.)
So there you have it. The northern area of the park is open now and offers pristine green spaces with not a lot of traffic if you are looking for some natural solitude. We'll be keeping track of all the other ambitious developments when they are slated to open in 2024.