Pre­serv­ing the bricks of her­itage

Ex­perts say more will be done to con­serve iconic old build­ings that re­flect Shang­hai’s history and cul­ture

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai


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.

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