Preserving the bricks of heritage
Experts say more will be done to conserve iconic old buildings that reflect Shanghai’s history and culture
Shanghai authorities are mulling over the introduction of a business model to help solve the problems with funding and managing historical buildings in the city.
The iconic shikumens, or stone gate houses, used to be the city’s most common residences and they form the majority of the old buildings that need to be protected. One way to do so is via commercialization, said a senior official from Shanghai Planning and Land Resource Administration Bureau.
“Xintiandi is one such successful case. It has now become a landmark shopping compound for the affluent,” said Yu Sijia, the engineer-in-chief of the bureau.
Covering an area of 30,000 square meters in the former French Concession in downtown Shanghai, the Xintiandi project was completed in 2007. The bustling area is home to numerous shikumen lane houses that are more than half a century old and the project managed to conserve these historical buildings by giving them a facelift and transforming the area into a shopping and entertainment center.
Authorities from Shanghai’s Xuhui district are currently cultural sites,” said Mo Fuchun, secretary of the Party’s Xuhui district committee, during an interview with Shanghai People’s Radio Station. Repairs will begin at the end of this year.
A list of 426 buildings which have been designated as “city- level outstanding historical sites” was recently published, bringing the total number of such buildings to 1,058. These structures are protected by the government and are banned from undergoing unauthorized construction works. This is the first time that buildings constructed after the 1950s have been included in the list.
“The Shanghai Exhibition Center, which was built in 1955, is on the list. We used to think that it was not old enough but this time experts believe it is time for the building to be protected,” said Yu.
The youngest compound on the list is the one comprising six high-rise residential towers on North Caoxi Road in Xuhui district. Constructed in the early 1980s, this compound was representative of the typical home for a Shanghainese during that time.
This is the fifth time since 1989 that a batch of buildings in this particular municipality has been named as outstanding historical buildings. It is also the first time that more than 400 sites have been listed, and it suggests that the authorities are on a mission to rescue the city’s heritage and culture.
Yu said that the designation of more buildings as historical artifacts will be made on a regular basis, and authorities are also looking into establishing a mechanism to prevent demolition works to be carried out on certain old buildings that have yet to be assigned protection status.
“With the city accelerating its development over the past few years, some graceful old buildings were torn down when preservation experts were still deciding whether they needed to be protected. Such cases happened one after another, and it was a great pity,” Yu said.
According to the relevant conservation regulations, a building that was constructed 30 years ago or earlier and is a significant work of a famous architect, or represents a milestone in architecture style or building craft with scientific, historical or humanistic values, can be recommended by experts and the public to be listed as an outstanding historical building.
Built in the 1930s by Jewish businessman Eric Moller, the Moller Villa is among the iconic buildings in Shanghai that has been assigned protection status.