In China, it is not impolite to stare. Western tourists to small cities will find themselves gawked at by kids and adults alike. So, I didn’t feel at all awkward when I was staring at a large white figure in downtown Shanghai: an ugly skyscraper right across from the Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai’s concrete Space Needle.
I love postmodern architecture. I like the Chippendale-topped AT&T Building in New York City, and I am not afraid of Michael Graves’ gaudy, overblown, pastel-hued Swan and Dolphin hotels in Orlando. But I found this building in Shanghai to be one of the most fascinatingly ugly skyscrapers I have seen.
It is as if an 1800’s-era draftsman dreamed of a Greek-revival tower that could never be constructed with technology of the day. He drew a picture, but his dream was never realized. This tower makes Caesars Palace look subtle. It borrows from the simple magnificence of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to create a huge heavy over-columned Parthenon that is as out-of-place in modern Shanghai as it would be in Athens. Perhaps the only place it would not be out of place is a Zeus cartoon.
Capturing beauty in a photo is sometimes difficult. So is capturing ugly. But I did the best I could. I think the only thing the photo misses is just how over-themed this place is.
But the more I looked at it, I couldn’t stop staring. It started to grow on me. And if it weren’t for the cheeseball Parthenon pediment on the bottom and the dome I could actually love it. But that would be embarrassing.