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A visual journey back in time

By China Daily | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-07-21 12:47

First authoritative documentation on the history of the Bund is released, showcases the development of the iconic waterfront stretch through the centuries

People can now take a tour of the Bund in Shanghai without actually having to set foot on the venue but by flipping through the pages of a new book titled Retrospection of the Century-long History of the Bund through Urban Construction Archives.

Compiled by the Shanghai Urban Construction Archives, the book features 34 historical buildings and structures along the Bund that are protected by the State. The book also shows how these architectures have changed over the years.

The content of the book is based on the 2006 investigation report by experts from the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Planning and Land Resources and photographers from the Shanghai Urban Construction Archives. These researchers took half a year to carry out the detailed site survey of the Bund.

"Though there are many books about the Bund, most of them are not accurate," said Lou Jianchun, chief engineer of the Shanghai Urban Construction Archives. "This is the first formal edition that contains authoritative design drawings and detailed pictures."

"Through the album, readers are able to explore and understand the splendor of the modern buildings in Shanghai," wrote Zheng Shiling, a well-known architect and the vice president of the Architectural Society of China, in the preface.

According to Zheng, the Bund is the soul of Shanghai and it represents the city's image as an exhibition of world architecture.

The Bund was initially where Western banks and trading houses were constructed by foreign forces who entered Shanghai after the First Opium War (1840-42). The waterfront stretch soon blossomed into a vibrant zone where foreigners and locals interacted for business and leisure. Today, many of the buildings along the Bund are listed as national cultural relics.

Architectures on the Bund have undergone three large-scale renovations through the centuries to become what they are today. The first phase took place starting from the mid to late 19th century. As shown on the map of the Foreign Settlement at Shanghai, most of the buildings on the Bund in 1855 were two-story, brick-wood structures primarily used as warehouses and office buildings.

A visual journey back in time

From 1901 to 1920, nearly half of the buildings were renovated. The newly-built ones were higher and bigger, ranging from three- to seven-story ferroconcrete structures, and were equipped with cooling and heating facilities and elevators.

The golden era of old Shanghai spanned from the 1920s to 1930s when magnificent high-rise buildings sprouted as the Bund was developed into a major financial center in East Asia. By then, the total land area occupied by buildings on the Bund was 52,800 square meters.

"There are about 1,000 pictures in the book and they include about 190 design drawings, 200 old pictures and new photos," said Chen Jikang, a photographer with the Shanghai Urban Construction Archives. "We've selected those that we felt are the most representative of Shanghai's history."

Chen, who has taken more than 27,000 pictures of buildings and structures along the Bund, added that most of the old photos in the book are from the Shanghai Urban Construction Archives as those collected from other sources lack shots of building interiors.

The book is divided into two chapters. In chapter one, readers will find the three historical phases the Bund underwent and see how the skyline was gradually transformed. Chapter two depicts the historical changes, protection conditions and architectural features of individual buildings and structures.

Readers also get to see how the shape of the Bund changed through the years as this chapter illustrates how the expansion of Shanghai's pier and road extensions facilitated marine transport, and how the development along the western bank of the Huangpu River was much faster than that in the east before the Pudong area was developed in the 1980s.

Cao Chen in Shanghai contributed to this story.

A visual journey back in time

A visual journey back in time

1. HSBC Building

Situated at No 12 Zhongshan Dongyi Road, the HSBC Building is a five-floor building that was designed by GL Wilson of Palmer & Turner and constructed in 1923. It has the widest facade on the Bund, occupies the largest land area (5,174 square meters) and has a floor space of 23,746 square meters. The building once served as the headquarters of the Shanghai branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. It is currently home to the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.

There is a pair of bronze lions at the entrance to the HSBC Building. The sculptures in front of the building today are replicas. The original ones are being kept in the Shanghai History Museum.

2. Customs House on the Bund

Designed by GL Wilson of Palmer & Turner, the Customs House features three transversal and vertical sections and the Greek-style decorations. The entrance of the building has a copper cast gate and four columns which represent simplicity and energy.

The clock tower is the most distinctive part of the Customs House. The clock was manufactured by a British company. Because of its resemblance to the Big Ben in London, the clock tower was once nicknamed the "Big Qing".

3. Palace Hotel

Constructed in 1908, the Palace Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Shanghai. It was once the tallest building in Shanghai following its upgrade from a three-story structure. It can be found at No 19 Zhongshan Dongyi Road.

The Palace Hotel is famous for being the city's first rooftop garden which initially featured several Baroque towers. However, a fire at the northwest corner of the roof caused serious damage to the garden in 1912 and most towers were not restored until 1998.

The International Opium Commission once held a conference in the Palace Hotel in 1909. This was also the venue where officials in Shanghai gathered in 1911 to welcome Sun Yat-sen who led the historic revolution that ended the old feudal monarchy in China. The Palace Hotel was among the first buildings in Shanghai to be equipped with an elevator, heating equipment and advanced sanitary facilities.

4. The Sassoon House

The Sassoon House, located on No 20 Zhongshan Dongyi Road, was once named the "No 1 Building in the Far East". It was built using investments by Victor Sassoon, a British national from a Jewish family that was once the richest in Baghdad.

After World War I, the Sassoon Family transferred large amounts of funds out of China and this resulted in problems with operating and maintaining the building. The Sassoon House was later taken over by the Shanghai government in 1952. It was reopened in 1956 following repairs and was renamed Peace Hotel.

5. The Bank of China Building

The Bank of China Building on No 23 was originally the property of a foreign firm before it was bought by a German organization. It was confiscated by the Chinese government after World War I in 1917 and the Bank of China later purchased it with 630,000 silver dollars (an ancient Chinese currency). The construction of the building was suspended for four years from 1939 to 1943 during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the bank was forced to move inland. It was completed in 1944.

The Bank of China is the only building on the Bund to sport traditional Chinese characteristics. The embossment on the lintel above the main entrance previously featured Confucius but was changed to depict a crowd of people after it was damaged.

6. The Garden Bridge

Built in 1907, the Garden Bridge was the earliest large-scale steel truss bridge in China for trams. Despite being more than a century old, the bridge is still in sound condition thanks to a number of renovation works through the years.

One of the major problems foreign architects faced during the initial phase of construction was extracting the bridge piles driven into the depths of the creek when erecting the previous wooden bridge. A Chinese contractor named Zhou Ruiting successfully solved this problem using the principle of ebb and flow.

A visual journey back in time

A visual journey back in time

(China Daily USA 07/21/2017 page9)

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