The scale of the entry pavilions is mammoth, and it needs to be. At peak times the crowds are huge.
Detail of the entry pavilions is excellent--clean, precise and beautiful.
Lighting throughout the Expo is pretty spectacular at night.
China's pavilion is the dominant landmark immediately adjacent to the entry concourse.
One of the most interesting country pavilions is Spain's. The color, material and texture is evocative (though it is somewhat crudely made).
The exterior surface is made of basket material of various configurations shingled to create a loose, rich pattern.
There is already considerable weathering, and it is clear this is a temporary installation. It will soon self-destruct.
Spain's pavilion also looks great at night with the texture of the basket weave accentuated by the light.
The interior has three major spaces, the most spectacular of which is dominated by one huge art piece. A thirty foot tall animatronics baby looms over the crowded hall.
The baby is amazingly lifelike. It changes expressions and moves very slowly in response to the crowd. If one area gets particularly loud it will look over in that direction.
As you get up close the skin and detail is extraordinary.
United Arab Emirates made an impressive show for a small group of countries.
There seemed to be allusions to rolling sand dunes and ripples created in the sand.
Germany's pavilion looked very--German. There were a lot of trendy angular shapes all over the Expo. This one was the most sophisticated of that genre.
Poland took the angular route as well, but gave it an original twist by making reference to paper cutting traditions in Poland.
Since China also has a strong paper cutting tradition, this was a nice reference.
Although I expected the British pavilion to be one of my favorites from pictures I had seen, it was a bit of a disappointment. It was tiny and kind of weak. The little "jewel" of the cathedral was lovely, but was just a small bit of an otherwise crude building.
A number of the smaller countries' pavilions were really impressive. The interior of Chile's building was very cool both spatially and in terms of how it was made.
You actually walk through the big egg which is the centerpiece of the space.
Norway's pavilion was also an interesting little vignette in wood.
It does a great job of exploring lamination and layering of materials.
Bamboo is used to make beautiful, if somewhat gratuitous, forms.
Korea's pavilion was one of the most original ones I thought. It did a great job of integrating indoors and outdoors together.
It had real spatial complexity as well as strong surface treatment.
It also looked great at night when it seemed to glow from within.

The architecture of World’s Fairs in general ranges from exquisite (e.g. Mies Barcelona Pavilion, Le Corbusier’s L’Esprit Nouveau Pavilion, Aalto’s Finnish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair) to just flashy and eye-catching with very little sophistication.  There was a lot of attention grabbing excess at Shanghai and occasionally some real quality.  I was most impressed when there was a powerful effect achieved with simple means–like the basket skin in Spain;s pavilion or the simple exterior and rich interior of Chile’s pavilion.

All in all, I feel like I am at an architectural petting zoo at these World’s Fairs.  Every exotic entry stands alone.  Each pavilion is muscling out its neighbor in a effort to be the star attraction.  At Shanghai, architecture seemed to be the major medium for individual expression.  The exhibits seemed to take a back seat to the buildings, and were often pretty boring.

It was a bit dismaying to see how trendy the architecture tended to be in a lot of cases.  There were a lot of warmed-over versions of shapes, forms and materials you see around a lot.  The real invention or authentic expression of message was pretty rare.

The best exhibits in the fair were the crowds.  They were fantastic to watch.  The overwhelming majority of people there (I heard numbers from 95% to 99%) were Chinese tourists from all over the country.  They had their parasols to protect against the potent sun during the day and mobbed the place until late into the night.  They seemed endlessly patient (waiting in line for up to 5 hours for some pavilions), wondrously curious and genuinely proud to have hosted such a great show.