If you look out of the window from your dorm, you can probably see two hills under construction.

Jingyi Ma for On Magnolia Square

They are from Shanghai EXPO Cultural Park, a park designed to preserve the memories of the 2010 Shanghai World EXPO. I can still remember–for a kid, the EXPO site was like an amazing park with numerous houses representing different countries. I collected stamps at each site, experienced the activities of foreign lands, chatted with foreigners for the first time, and saw people lining up for hours to get to a site. As a kid, I had hoped that the EXPO would never end. However, like all good things, it eventually did. Now, the Shanghai EXPO Cultural Park creates a lens for us to remember this amazing event, not just for those who experienced it firsthand but also for younger generations born after 2010.

Nowadays Shanghai EXPO Cultural Park looks very different from the EXPO site ten years ago.  The park’s north side, with more heritage, was opened at the end of 2021. Only four of the original buildings were preserved: France, Italy, Luxembourg, and Russia. They are now adapted to galleries, art centers or restaurants. An interesting fact was that in 2010, it normally took at least 3 hours to line up in the France Pavilion, so I had never gone into it, but now I can get into it freely. Stepping up to the second floor of Luxembourg Pavilion, you will have a view of the Shanghai Garden. This newly built garden is of the traditional style of Chinese Garden, an oasis of traditional Chinese architecture amidst the steel forest in the urban center. It is a sight to behold, with ducks, black swans, and koi gracefully swimming in the tranquil waters, and flowers or trees to be seen at four seasons.

The Italy Pavilion (Jingyi Ma for On Magnolia Square)
The Shanghai Garden (Photo by Jingyi Ma)

The south side, which will be fully open to the public by this year, covers a part of the original Shanghai No.3 Steel Plant. This part of the Plant was originally a pavilion of the World EXPO, and it was a stage that offered shows. Now, some parts of the Plant have been converted into a large greenhouse, again, breathing new life into the site’s industrial past. Besides, the Shanghai Grand Opera House is under construction. This gorgeous opera house gained inspiration from the traditional folding fan in China. 

Jingyi Ma for On Magnolia Square

During the consultation of the park, as there’s almost no mountain in Shanghai, nearby residents were very eager to have a mountain in the park. The hills we can see from the dorm is called “Twin Hills.” This is probably the most expensive mountain in the world–20 million RMB in total. The hills were made of cement and steel, with car parks beneath to accommodate visitors’ cars. Still, as this winter is a bit long and the trees are not fully planted yet, the hills looked a bit messy. Hopefully, it will give us a better view when it’s officially open to the public. In the future, there will be summit trails connecting these two hills, and residents can enjoy a mountain view of the Huangpu River. 

The theme of the 2010 Shanghai World EXPO is “Better city, better life.” Through its preservation of EXPO heritage, its transformation of industrial sites, and its recreation of landscape, the park not only serves as a reminder of the past but also as a beacon guiding us toward a more vibrant future.