The other day while bicycling past the site of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, I happened upon the destruction of one of its most famous destinations—the Saudi Arabia pavilion. It was already in such a state of advanced demolition that at first I didn’t even recognize what it was. The frazzled, suicidal palm trees standing like jumpers on the edge of the rooftop three stories up were what initially caught my eye.
I didn’t have time to stop for more than just a few shots from my iPhone to document the building’s demise. For decades apocalyptic scenes of demolition have been commonplace in urban China—most, however, are to remove old buildings or neighborhoods for new real-estate developments. Witnessing the evisceration of one of the Expo dreamland’s most famous destinations evoked a different feeling. During the summer of 2010 the expo showcased dazzling sights, celebrated China’s new modern, and asserted a bright future. Back in that hot summer I documented thousands of people waiting in line upwards of five hours just to see the spectacular insides of the Saudi Pavilion. Now on an overcast, gray day with rain about to fall, the pavilion was stripped of its skin, its skeleton visible and its guts hanging out for any passersby to see.