‘Stone house’ set to get 4th corner

Shanghai Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Yang Jian

FEW city build­ings com­pare to the for­mer home of Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal Coun­cil near the Bund where many his­toric events took place.

A ma­jor ren­o­va­tion has be­gun on the “stone house” to re­store and ex­pand it in keep­ing with the orig­i­nal vi­sion of its ar­chi­tect.

The build­ing at 193 Hankou Road was orig­i­nally built to man­age lo­cal for­eign set­tle­ments but later housed Shang­hai govern­ment.

The na­tional flag was raised for the first time in the city over the build­ing in Oc­to­ber 1949. Shang­hai’s first mayor Chen Yi (1901-1971) signed an agree­ment there with Kuom­intang of­fi­cial Zhao Zukang to take over the city.

Physi­cist Al­bert Ein­stein gave a lec­ture on the the­ory of rel­a­tiv­ity in the au­di­to­rium in 1923.

Af­ter decades with­out ma­jor ren­o­va­tions, the struc­ture is some­what care­worn and scruffy, its gran­ite fa­cade weath­ered, its stairs and mosaic floors down­trod­den. Iron-framed win­dows can­not be closed, the paint­work is cracked and fall­ing away.

To re­store it to its for­mer glory, Huangpu District govern­ment has be­gun ren­o­va­tions to pre­serve the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing struc­ture. Ap­prox­i­mately onethird of com­plex was never com­pleted ac­cord­ing to its orig­i­nal blue­print and that work will now be done.

Work is sched­uled to be fin­ished by the build­ing’s cen­te­nary in 2022, Shang­hai Bund Re­gen­er­a­tion, the com­pany in charge of the project, said yes­ter­day.

When ready, 70 per­cent of the build­ing will be­come of­fices, 20 per­cent will be venues for small con­certs and ex­hi­bi­tions, while the rest will be com­mer­cial prop­erty.

The au­di­to­rium, orig­i­nally built for mil­i­tary train­ing, will host plays and con­certs, while two squares in the heart of the com­plex will be opened to the pub­lic.

The orig­i­nal de­sign was found at the Bri­tish Mu­seum in London, a Shang­hai Bund Re­gen­er­a­tion of­fi­cial said. “We want to be true to the vi­sion of the ar­chi­tect based on the blue­print.”

The five-story neo­clas­si­cal build­ing fea­tures a gran­ite fa­cade, Baroque styling, Ionic col­umns and arched win­dows. On Hankou, Jiangxi M. and Fuzhou roads the build­ing en­com­passes a closed court­yard, but the struc­ture sud­denly ends with a gap on the south­west corner.

Con­struc­tion started in 1913, was de­layed due to the break­out of World War I in 1914 and was even­tu­ally fin­ished in Novem­ber 1922. It was never com­pleted to the orig­i­nal de­sign, mainly due to lack of funds.

The main en­trance and main hall were cov­ered with black and white gran­ite. Its four el­e­va­tors, mod­ern san­i­tary equip­ment and heaters were im­ported from Britain.

Ac­cord­ing to the ren­o­va­tion plan by David Chip­per­field Ar­chi­tects, the re­main­ing third of the build­ing will be built to the orig­i­nal de­sign and the au­di­to­rium re­built, as the orig­i­nal struc­ture was de­stroyed in a fire a decade ago.

The ex­te­rior will be re­paired. Win­dows and doors will be re­fur­bished. The mayor’s of­fice where Chen Yi worked, and the board­room, will be re­stored to their orig­i­nal look.

The city govern­ment was re­lo­cated to the HSBC Build­ing on the Bund in 1955. The build­ing then housed the city’s civil af­fairs, green­ery, health and hu­man re­sources au­thor­i­ties.

Prepa­ra­tion for ren­o­va­tion and ex­pan­sion started in 2014. Nearby house­holds and of­fices have been re­lo­cated.

Left: The main hall of the for­mer Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal Coun­cil build­ing. Below: A typ­i­cal stair­well and iron handrail in the build­ing.

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