From a certain vantage point on the Puxi (west bank) side of Shanghai’s Huangpu River, the enormous twin geodesic globes bookending the postmodern neo-classical facade of the Shanghai International Convention Center stand on either side of the jutting Oriental Pearl Tower in a undeniably priapic manner. In sum, the combination of tower and huge convention center spheres make a clear statement about where Shanghai was in the early 1990s: happily tacky, wonderfully naive, in love with glitz and expressions of the “future” that to Western eyes smack of mid-20th-century sci-fi kitsch… and really, really, really excited to be showing its stuff in a big, garish way. (If not particularly well-schooled in Freud.)
The city and its architecture have grown somewhat more sophisticated in the intervening 15 years or so (the Oriental Pearl Tower was completed in 1995), but the Shanghai International Convention Center remains front and center when it comes to Shanghai’s post-Cultural Revolution reinvention, overlooking the river and facing the Bund and its own collection of statement buildings from an earlier era of cash-infused super-growth.
Regardless, the convention center does more than embody Shanghai’s self-image circa 1995, it also hosts numerous major events and a number of ongoing affairs of interest to tourists, including regular appearances of a vintage jazz band evocative of 1920s & ’30s Shanghai while their original performance space across the Huangpu at the Peace Hotel is being renovated. Speaking of hotels, the Shanghai International Convention Center Hotel is a sensible place to stay if you’re in town on business in Lujiazui.
If you’re interested in the convention center as something other than an architectural curiosity, here are the specs: total floor space of 110,000 square meters, a 4,400-square-meter grand banquet hall, a 3,600-square-meter press conference center, nearly 30 halls and meeting rooms, food courts and restaurants. Yep, it’s big!