If you have a penchant for history and urban development, I highly recommend you to find your way to People's Square, where the six-story Urban Planning Exhibition Hall vividly narrates a tale of the city's evolution.
Surrounded by landmarks that testify to a century's worth of economic development and socio-political upheaval, the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall is the perfect starting point for your explorations around the city. When the doors opened in 2000, it was the first museum of its kind, and the content has been continually updated to reflect the ongoing urban transformation within Shanghai.
Upon entering the museum, make your way to the top floor and take in the panoramic views of People's Square, including the iconic Moore Memorial Church, Park Hotel and Yan'an Elevated Road.
On the floors below, the exhibits follow a loosely conceived timeline from prehistoric times to the present day. Here you will find a display of Shanghai's changing infrastructure through the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties, reconstructed with a series of clay models and figurines. From there, recent history from the Opium War to the 20th century are documented through black and white photographs and reproduced maps.
The most fascinating and engaging item remains the 'father-and-son' photo album. Taken by amateur photographer Xu Xixian and his son Xu Jinrong, the photographs juxtapose the city's most recognizable crossroads snapped 30 years apart and reveal the changes that can happen within a generation.
The gallery upstairs reminisces upon a lifestyle on the brink of extinction by showcasing an urban micro-regeneration project. Led by a group of urban designers at Shanghai's Tongji University, the project focuses on the community who dwells in the Guizhou Xi LuXiamen Lu lane houses. Through their work, they endeavor to upgrade the neighborhood with modern facilities while maintaining its structural integrity. Demonstrating how the old ways of life can coexist with contemporary developments in a progressive city like Shanghai.
The highlight of the visit goes to the diorama on the fourth level. Crowned the largest city model in the world, this LED-lit miniature display of central Shanghai includes an elevated walkway, allowing visitors to appreciate the futuristic Lujiazui skyline, examine the transportation system and study the districts from all angles.
Altogether, the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall deserves an hour or two of your time for a thorough visit. Whether you are interested in local history or have just arrived in town, it can deepen your understanding of Shanghai and show you how the city has developed so impressively over the years.
[All image by Mandy Tie/Urban Family]
See listing for Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall here
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