Shanghai may decide to keep some 'worthy' pavilions on expo site

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 November, 2010, 12:00am

Shanghai may consider keeping a dozen or more national pavilions on its World Expo 2010 site if they are 'worth retaining', the city's party secretary says.

The announcement is a U-turn for the expo organisers, who have consistently maintained that all national pavilions would need to be cleared from the site.

'If there are individual countries that are willing to donate to the organisers and we consider them worth retaining, then we can undertake individual discussions,' party secretary Yu Zhengsheng said in an interview published by Shanghai media. 'Currently there are some countries that have expressed the hope that their pavilions can be preserved, and we are currently in the middle of talks.'

Yu said organisers were assessing the various buildings to judge their architectural merit and the feasibility of using them as permanent structures. 'Roughly, there are more than 10 pavilions that have this kind of possibility,' he said.

Work on dismantling the 5.28 sq km expo site began soon after the fair closed on October 31 after a six-month run - but the final fate of many national pavilions remains unclear. Participating nations with self-built structures have until May 1 next year to return their plots to the municipal government in the same condition they received them.

While some pavilions are being taken apart for recycling or being taken back to their home countries - such as Japan's and New Zealand's - others are seeking a second lease of life in a new location, mostly in second-tier mainland cities.

However, negotiations regarding several pavilions are still under way.

Around the time of expo's opening in May, the directors of a number of national pavilions said organisers had told them that the five most popular pavilions from foreign participants would be given permanent places on the site.

This was repeatedly denied by the Shanghai Expo Bureau. Under expo regulations, it said, all national pavilions were temporary constructions that needed to be removed within six months of the fair's end.

Maria Tena, commissioner-general of the Spanish pavilion, said she was 'full of hope' that the iconic building would be saved from the wrecker's ball.

Keeping some of the national pavilions would enable the city to show that the expo slogan - 'better city, better life' - could 'be a reality and not only a desire', she said.

According to the city's original plan, only the China pavilion and four other buildings were intended as permanent structures. The four were the expo's convention centre, the UFO-shaped performance centre, its huge, hangar-like theme pavilion and the 'expo axis' - a combined transport hub and shopping mall almost a kilometre in length.

Yu said the city's government had yet to make a final decision on what function the China pavilion would perform in the long term; the options included a 'high-end exhibition' space, cultural centre, public library or museum.

He said the expo park's Pudong section - the larger of its two halves, which are divided by the Huangpu River - would be set aside mostly for projects with cultural, exhibition and business uses.

'Our main hope is that the income from this parcel of land on Pudong will break even with the expenditure spent on relocations,' he said. 'That is to say, Shanghai does not aim to make a profit on the income from this parcel of land.'

Yu acknowledged that the prime site was 'very valuable', but vowed that if income from land sales exceeded the cost of clearing it, the government would set aside land to build some 'high-quality public housing'.

After the fair

The number of national pavilions that may be retained as permanent structures at the expo site can exceed: 10