Perennially packed with visitors from other Chinese cities and abroad, The Bund is without doubt Shanghai’s most famous tourist landmark. But this scenic waterfront area holds a much greater significance besides being an excellent spot to catch the stunning views of the Lujiazui cityscape and the bright neon lights that accompany it.
Widely considered to be Shanghai’s epicenter of progress, The Bund was nothing more than a small fishing village before it was transformed into the “Wall Street of the East” in the 1930s when Occidental colonists raced to stake their claim along the Huangpu River to establish financial and business centers.
To honor the significance of this prime waterfront area, 29 buildings located at the forefront of the river bank stretching from Waibaidu Bridge to Yan’an Road were in 1996 designated as a national cultural relic preservation site. A massive project, one which took nearly two decades to complete, was launched to restore their distinctive architecture, ranging from Neo-Classical to Gothic to Baroque, to their former glory.
“Cultural relics are non-renewable resources with scientific, historical and humanistic values and they represent a milestone in building craft,” said Chang Qing, a professor of architecture at Tongji University. “Best effort is expected in the repairs as these structures are treasures to be passed on to the future generations.”
According to Shen Sanxin, the engineer-in-chief of Shanghai Zhuzong Group Construction Developing Co Ltd — one of the companies contracted to carry out this facelift — the task was nothing like conventional restoration works.
“The renovation of such cultural relics is very different from that of average old buildings. According to the country’s Cultural Relic Protection Law, the repairs must abide by the strictest criterion, maintaining the integrity of the exterior facade, the architectural structure, the spatial pattern and the internal decoration as per their original state,” said Shen.
Yang Ming, who works in a property management company located in one of the buildings on The Bund, said she has seen workers repairing the buildings over the past few years and believes that such efforts are important to Shanghai.
“Different companies have moved in and out from these historical buildings, and this must have caused damages. These architectures deserve to be preserved. No matter how many eye-catching skyscrapers are built in the future, the buildings on The Bund simply can’t be replaced,” she said.