China is a country that inspires the most awesome statistics, not least of which is its population of over 1260 million people. As this vast country shrugs off its isolationist cloak and opens its borders to the rest of world, those awe-inspiring numbers keep growing.
It's estimated that during the reconstruction of Shanghai, one-fifth of the world's cranes were employed on building sites throughout the city. This dramatic increase in activity drew international corporations such as Sony, who were keen to make the statistics add up in their favour. The company's new gallery, in a refurbished 1930s building, attracted half a million visitors in its first four months.
Located in the historic French concession along the city's premier high street Huai Hai Road, the Sony gallery occupies 929m² over three storeys. Architect Eric Lagerquist says the gallery showcases the company's innovative and constantly evolving entertainment-based technology.
"It's about making up for the 50-year technology gap by presenting the Sony brand as an innovator in products that possess a functional aesthetic."
The introduction is immediate and overwhelming as the visitor steps from the cobblestone streets of old Shanghai. At the front entrance they are confronted by a 12m long tunnel lined with overlapping stainless steel sheets, which is designed to resemble the scales of a dragon.
This metal skin is hung with 20 four-foot rear projection screens, six LCD monitors and eight speakers, engulfing the visitor in an audiovisual display.
Inside the tunnel, visitors register and receive FeliCa cards. Devised by branding firm Duffy & Partners, these cards are a valuable market research tool. Visitors are encouraged to swipe their FeliCa cards at interactive display points throughout the gallery, collecting points for prizes such as free T-shirts and other Sony merchandise.
Upon emerging from the tunnel, the first exhibit is the Walkman Gallery. Designed by Duffy Asia, it shows the evolution of this iconic product since it was first introduced by Sony in the late 1970s.