Shiku­men com­pound gets con­tro­ver­sial facelift

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By XU JUNQIAN in Shang­hai xu­jun­qian@chi­

The trans­for­ma­tion of Shang­hai’s largest shiku­men com­pound, Jian Ye Li, into a lux­ury ho­tel has sparked con­tro­versy over the cor­rect way to pre­serve his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant ar­chi­tec­tures.

Apart from the ho­tel which falls un­der the Amer­i­can hos­pi­tal­ity brand Capella, the ren­o­vated com­pound also fea­tures res­tau­rants, shops and pri­vate man­sions.

Oc­cu­py­ing 17,000 square me­ters, the com­pound dates back to 1930 and used to have 260 homes. Be­fore the de­vel­op­ers com­menced ren­o­va­tions in 2008, there were up­wards of 3,000 peo­ple re­sid­ing in the com­pound, which had since 1994 been des­ig­nated as a mu­nic­i­pal-level his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant build­ing.

Though the fa­cades of the build­ings have been kept in­tact, the de­vel­op­ers tore down the in­te­ri­ors to re­pur­pose the space, draw­ing flax from con­ser­va­tion ex­perts.

“The preser­va­tion of the shiku­men, or any form of res­i­den­tial ar­chi­tec­tures, is not only about keep­ing the ar­chi­tec­ture in­tact. It also in­volves pre­serv­ing the orig­i­nal lifestyle within,” said Zhang Xuemin, di­rec­tor of Shang­hai Shiku­men Cul­ture Re­search Cen­ter.

Ear­lier this year, the re­search cen­ter and sev­eral po­lit­i­cal ad­vi­sors had called for shiku­men houses to be in­cluded in UNESCO's World Her­itage List along­side other Chi­nese cul­tural sites such as the Long­men Grot­toes, Mount Wu­tai and the leg­endary Tem­ple of Heaven in Bei­jing.

A dis­tinc­tive res­i­den­tial ar­chi­tec­ture that used to char­ac­ter­ize Shang­hai’s

At its peak, two-thirds of the city’s pop­u­la­tion dwelled in the unique ar­chi­tec­ture, which amounted to more than 9,000 com­plexes, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial mu­nic­i­pal records. To­day, there are less than 180 shiku­mens left in the city and even fewer have been care­fully pre­served, based on re­search by the cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal data com­mit­tee of Shang­hai’s po­lit­i­cal ad­vi­sory body.

Zhu Jin­song, gen­eral man­ager of Hengfu In­vest­ment and De­vel­op­ment com­pany, one of the ma­jor de­vel­op­ers of Jian Ye Li com­pound, said: “The pri­or­ity of our ren­o­va­tion is to re­store the for­mer glory of these ar­chi­tec­tures.”

The ho­tel, which com­prises 55 houses, is mar­keted as the first and only one in Shang­hai that al­lows guests to spend a night in a shiku­men villa. It is sched­uled to open in March next year.

A fine din­ing restau­rant by highly ac­claimed French chef Pierre Gag­naire, who was in 2015 crowned as the best chef in the world by French mag­a­zine Le Chef, will also be sit­u­ated in the premises.


A look at one of the ho­tel rooms in Jian Ye Li.

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