Shanghai's Retrofuturism

Modernism’s alchemistic promise has been a failure, a hoax: magic that didn’t work. Its ideas, aesthetics, strategies are finished. Together, all attempts to make a new beginning have only discredited the idea of a new beginning.
Rem Koolhaas S,M,X,XL 1995

Touch the Future.
Slogan on a Shanghai billboard advertising the 2010 World Fair

In much of the Western world the future now belongs to the past. The very idea of the city of tomorrow  - with its multilayered skyways, housecleaning robots and flying cars -- seems doomed to the realm of nostalgia, the sadly comic promise of a future that never arrived.

Yet, faith in the future, which has elsewhere been lost, has reemerged in contemporary China. In Shanghai today, yesterday’s dreams of tomorrow are being revived.

This talk explores Shanghai’s retrofuturism asking:  how is it that the future came to seem so backward?  Is the dynamic that eclipsed yesterday’s visions of a future metropolis fated to simply replay itself? Is Shanghai’s current futurism just a reflection of what has come before. Or, instead, might the city give rise to an urban future that is unexpected, unfamiliar and unknown?