A sense for design – it has grown rapidly in Asia’s metropolis, Shanghai. Known to many as China’s “glitziest city”, it prides itself with a modern skyline that can compete with all megacities on this planet. From skyscrapers to contemporary constructions, Shanghai’s people have an eye for design and that shows in their architectural creations. In fact, this metropolis, more and more, becomes a hub for those who appreciate good design, as well as eclectic buildings and art that inspires.

But at its core lies functionality that so wonderfully flows together with aesthetics, both in the creative sector, as well as in Shanghai’s infrastructure. A city on the rise, with an artistic sense that weaves its way through many aspects of urban life. The focus lies on the development of the creative industry in an effort to become an international, cultural destination. 

Cityscape That Lives

There are many design approaches in Shanghai, and it becomes evident quickly that there are numerous creative minds at work. They, however, mostly keep functionality at heart. This is especially the case when it comes to urban development.

The skyline is continuously evolving. The majority of the modern sky-high constructions are situated at the waterfront of the Huangpu River – a buzzing area. You cannot escape the atmosphere that lulls you in and leaves you speechless in the midst of the never-stopping city flow. 

Shanghai is a city that opens your eyes to the world – Michael Kors

Noteworthy and significantly impacting Shanghai’s cityscape are the following architectural highlights with a functional thought behind. The Jin Mao Tower is 88 storeys high, designed by Fazlur Khan. Being the home to the Shanghai Grand Hotel, it combines Art Deco and a modern style. Moreover, the Oriental Pearl Tower is a treasure on Shanghai’s skyline. As the radio and TV tower, it wows the beholder with an elegant, yet futuristic design.

Founded on the pillar of sustainability, Tony’s Farm is the largest organic food farm in Shanghai. Playing with the sunlight and a greener design, by the use of wood, inter alia, its construction reflects the green thought behind. A similar idea the Giant Interactive Group Corporate HQ put into practice. Keeping it “natural”, canals and an artificial lake, large windows, as well as a temperature controlling, green roof set the tone for a work experience closer to nature.  

Last but not least, the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal might just be (one of) the most impressive constructions that aims to conserve energy. Right in the center of the metropolis, the complex design is one meant to impress those who set foot on Shanghai’s soil. A grand welcome to the thriving megacity. 

Infrastructure Design Re-Defined

The beaming lights of the intertwined highways allow a glimpse into Shanghai’s future – a bright and glowing one. Moving with light speed, the movement of this city never comes to a halt. Stepping back is not an option. Just like the traffic flows in one direction, there’s only one way – to move forward. Yet, taking many turns, it symbolically shows the versatility of this metropolis in its architectural designs. 

Stepping out of the shadows, with the lights shining bright, Shanghai makes a name for itself in the world. It’s all about the light(ing) – and this metropolis has understood the art of its proper usage. The many roadways, carefully designed, fit seamlessly into the general city image. Functional, yet overall benefiting the aesthetics of the cityscape. 

It’s got the most amazing futuristic skyline […] – Paul Oakenfold

The K11 Art Mall is only an example of the cultural understanding towards Shanghai’s people and maybe even China at large, for it embraces the idea of creating a link between consumerism and art. It’s a lightened path – just like the intertwined highways – that allows for both function and need to merge. 

Creative freedom and Western influences found their way to Shanghai after Mao’s cultural revolution. And although this only happened a few decades ago, a new generation of creatives is contributing to the globalization of Shanghai in every aspect of life. 

Contemporary Art in Shanghai

The contemporary art community in Shanghai is flourishing. In the early 2000s, a number of private as well as public galleries and museums emerged on the scene, which have quickly grown since. Some of them have even received international recognition. The ever-moving metropolis provides the ideal nourishing ground for contemporary artists. With a multitude of inspiring designs, lighting, architecture, you name it, there are sheer endless impressions to draw creativity from. 

The Power Station of Art is not only Shanghai’s, but China’s largest contemporary art museum, and it is operated by the state. Situated in a converted plant, this perfectly shows how past and present merge. Here, the designers took something old and converted it, gave it a new twist. Creativity that’s also functional. 

Something similar goes for the Long Museum West Bund. With its industrial setting, the exhibited art in this museum embraces both ancient and contemporary artworks. This, again, shows the merging of history and modernity.

The Shanghai Gallery of Art showcases contemporary Chinese art that mainly consists of clean lines and minimalist designs. A step towards the future; embracing futuristic thought.  

Of course, I cannot miss the Shanghai Center of Photography. Founder Liu Heung Shing, who won the Pulitzer Prize, contributed to the space that feels very open, breathable, fresh, and spacious. This allows room for the photography to be highlighted. From fashion, journalistic captures, as well as abstract art approaches – there’s a little bit of everything. Just like Shanghai at large. 

Let this metropolis allow for you to see it in a different, continuously changing, light. 

What would you do if you only had 24 hours in China’s ever-evolving metropolis?