What to say about Shanghai? In my wildest dreams I never imagined a skyscraper sprawl like the one Ed and I encountered. It boggled my mind. But when our tour guide on our last day proudly recounted that Shanghai city proper is home to some 12 million people, and that the city outskirts contains another 12 million, I imagined skyscrapers are necessary.
At night Shanghai’s signature buildings are ablaze in colorful lights – just like Las Vegas. The nighttime views along the river walk of the Huangpu River on The Bund are electrifying. I can’t say I liked the architecture of Shanghai as I felt most of it looked like Sci-fi movie-sets, and hodgepodges of design elements that were never meant to be paired together.
But Ed delighted in and appreciated Shanghai’s architecture, thinking the designs fun, frivolous, and whimsical.
Standing outside the Shanghai Museum on our second day, I stopped and twirled around “again” slowly to understand the skyscraper landscape and asked Ed what he thought the city and their architects were thinking about when they created all “these unusual” buildings. In my architectural opinion, the architects didn’t take a moment to stand outside and consider the buildings that would surround their design. Nothing I bemoaned, compliments the other. Ed replied, “Why’d the chicken cross the road?” Pause. I didn’t answer. “Because they can.” Humph, I responded considering the flat-topped building behind him that is home to the city’s Urban Planning Exhibition Center and houses a giant scale model of Shanghai in 2020. He glanced back in it’s direction, turned to me and lifted his hands above his head, and said, “It’s like Tai Chi. You’ve got the whole world in your hands.” I could only laugh.
As we sat one day for lunch on top of the Radisson Hotel in the revolving restaurant affording us a 360-degree panoramic view of the city, I pointed at the building in front of us with a ball that looked suspended in what I deemed to be two arms reaching for the sky. “There, that one. If someone made me like a building, I’d choose that one. It reminds me of something Howard Roark might have designed in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. It’s almost got clean lines.”
Ed nodded and I felt better thinking that I’d picked at least one out hundreds of buildings that tower over the teeming masses who flock to see and experience Shanghai.