Cutting Through the Haze at the Shanghai World Expo


Stan 2On-the-ground at World Expo 2010 Shanghai, HOK Global Director of Climate Action Stan Wrzeski is gearing up for the Monday workshop he will lead: Global Voice, Local Choices: Creating Low-Carbon Communities, in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Here is an onsite report:

It’s my third day here, and my body is just starting to adjust to the time zone and high summer humidity. You wouldn’t think so, but the long lines of people entering the Shanghai Expo grounds are actually cooled by a water spray beneath the metal canopy. I suggested to Paul Woolford and Kelly Fehr that we should have issued HOK-labeled umbrellas with aluminized foil canopies to shelter people from the heat and promote our Monday presentation on climate action. They’d be popular devices to shelter folks from the high enthalpy of the heated mass of fog hanging over Expo grounds.

The haze lingers here all day and every day. Can’t tell whether its humidity or particulates. Went for a run my first morning here. Got delightfully lost exploring the neighborhoods, but came back more winded than usual. I fear it’s the particles.

It creates a design challenge for buildings here; should we design facilities with windows that may be opened in the future when the government hopes to close down a lot of the pollution-producing power plants and industry? Seems to call for a robust design solution.

Yesterday evening, I discovered the major challenge to my Monday climate action presentation.  Siobhan Ren of our Shanghai office was helping me translate portions of my PowerPoint presentation, and we were running into problems with terms that are commonly used within my realm … not just “triple bottom-line” or “carbon footprint,” but more fundamental notions like “values.” She enlisted a series of her colleagues to help with the translation. We were quite the sight working late into Friday afternoon in their 37th floor office, overlooking the haze of Shanghai – each strangers in each other’s strange land.

In the end, we figured it out. But then, I wouldn’t know if we didn’t … which is why I needed their help.  Our evolving work here will necessarily involve a high degree of trust. And the most satisfying part is working together to transcend the very differences that make us valuable to each other. We each discovered that we have much to learn. It’ll take awhile to cut through the haze.


HOK’s Paul Woolford shares his adaptive reuse concept for the San Francisco Mint with Mayor Gavin Newsom.


Some HOK Shanghai employees at World Expo 2010 Shanghai.

  1. June 21st, 2010 - 6:05 am
    john.cantrell said:

    Looks like you guys are representin’ the brain power! Good luck and have fun!

  2. June 21st, 2010 - 1:25 pm

    Stan: what a great report – gives me just an inkling of what it must like to be there. Looking forward to more.

  3. June 23rd, 2010 - 12:37 pm
    Kevin Salzer said:

    Stan: I was just in Shanghai in the middle of May and I have to tell you the smog was not nearly as restrictive. I could imagine opening a window at that time. I think it’s just especially bad during the hot months of summer. I was in Beijing just last week and that smog was horrendous. I’m guessing Shanghai is similar.

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