Wu Jiao Plaza
To reanimate a Shanghai neighborhood, Zhong Song wraps an obtrusive highway overpass in metal and light
Zhong Song Design Consultancy
It’s never easy to make transportation infrastructure look good. In the United States, typical strategies include planting flowers within a rotary, erecting banal, noise-blocking barriers along freeways, and, in many urban areas, doing nothing at all. But at Wu Jiao Plaza in Shanghai’s Yangpu District, the artist Zhong Song created an installation that dynamically melds architecture with lighting.
The Yangpu District was until recently a thriving manufacturing neighborhood. But around 2003, factories began abandoning the area for less expensive industrial zones in the countryside. Though unrelated to the loss of manufacturing facilities, the city of Shanghai started constructing at about the same time a series of roadways to connect different districts; one such project included a new highway overpass bisecting the center of Yangpu and one of its main public spaces. The underbelly of the overpass cast a dark shadow (literally and metaphorically) on Wu Jiao Plaza, a formerly inviting gathering place.
To rectify the situation, local government officials decided to spruce up the intrusion. So in 2003 they hired Zhong to design a sculpture for Wu Jiao Plaza based in part on a piece, Light of the East, that he had completed in Pudong in 2000 with the artist Chen Yifei. One of his large, architectural-scale sculptures, Light of the East is a giant sundial made of a needle piercing a disc. But for Yangpu, he proposed that the government reinvent the urban fabric of the area, not just add another monument to the plaza.
Zhong engaged the site’s knotty condition. “There are five roads leading to the plaza, and then a highway overpass on top, and a subway line underneath,” he continues. “There are three different levels of infrastructure, creating a complex fabric that affects the pedestrian nature of the area. So, the question was, how do we add the pedestrian element so people will animate the five different streets?”
To accomplish this task, the artist enveloped the 105-foot-wide overpass in an ovular steel frame clad with aluminum. Measuring 348 feet long, 157 feet wide, and 82 feet tall, it cloaks cars speeding along the overpass.
“The government asked me to do a sculpture initially,” Zhong says. “But I told them we need to do it differently. So we made it look like a spaceship, a UFO,” he explains. The steel-and-aluminum armature glistens in sunlight, while its skin appears to change from gold to silver under a cloudy sky.
Paint on exterior of oval aluminum structure