We’ll conclude this week’s photo series of weird theme parks with a snapshot from the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower. When construction on this bad boy finished in 1994 it was the tallest structure in China, and held that title until 2007, when the nearby Shanghai World Financial Center went up. Now they’re both dwarfed by the new kid on the block, Shanghai Tower, and the Pudong skyline in general is kind of an indistinguishable gestalt of LED-lit skyward stretch.
But the Oriental Pearl Tower kickstarted that whole Pudong development boom, and still serves as an architectural mascot for Shanghai in the 21st century, though it particularly embodies the bold aspirational spirit of China in the ’90s. Today it’s a tourist magnet. At the top tier, ticket-wise, you can enter the upper-most pearl, which is called the “Space Module” and features an exhibition of strung-up astronauts and mock satellites.
The exhibit feels a little anachronistic today, sagging with age as higher buildings go up around it. Not unlike the failed American Dream Park on the edge of the city, the view from the top of the Pearl Tower feels less like a vertical leap into the future and more like a benchmark for how quickly China has surpassed some of the development goals it’s set for itself over the last several decades.