On the Bund

Home to lifestyle destinations, centennial architecture stands the test of time

by

Writer

28 November 2013

The Bund has a special place in the hearts of the Shanghainese. With China's rapid economic growth over the past decades, it has gone through incredible transformations that touched the locals on a very personal level. Some remember going to the Bund as a child to admire large cargo vessels on the River Huangpu, while some remember taking an evening stroll with loved ones along the water. Times have changed and so has the river. Today, the huge ships have gone, throngs of tourists have replaced the locals walking along the Bund, and the River Huangpu's new face now seems slightly estranged to the Shanghainese. However, going to see the centennial architecture along the Bund is still worthwhile as it is iconically Shanghai. Number three, six and eighteen on the Bund are particularly worth a mention for their restoration projects from historical buildings to lifestyle destinations today.

On Zhongshan East First Road (or 'Zhong Shan Dong Yi Lu' in Chinese), which runs along the Bund, number three was British architectural firm Palmer & Turner's first project in Shanghai. With construction beginning in 1916, the Union Building was China's first to employ a steel framework. The 6-storey edifice had a Neo-Renaissance style and some Baroque details. It housed a number of insurance companies at that time, and in 1935, the Mercantile Bank of India moved in. 'Three on the Bund' was born when famous American architect Michael Graves was commissioned to transform the building. The Beaux Arts façade was painstakingly restored, while the non-historic interior was gutted to fit a new grand staircase and expand two light wells into full-height atriums.

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Drop by the Shanghai Gallery of Art and discover China's contemporary art scene. Besides the main exhibition area, the SHA Wing is dedicated to the exploration of contemporary curation. Let your imagination roam free within its expansive space. After enjoying some art, you can tuck into international gourmet specialities or relax with a drink served by Three on the Bund's restaurants and bars. Why not do some shopping at the German leather goods brand MCM's beautifully decorated boutique?

Going down Zhongshan East First Road, we come to number 6 where one of the Bund's oldest buildings is situated. Constructed in about 1881, this 4-floor architectural jewel looks like something out of a fairytale with its beautiful Gothic and Roman gables, spires and colonnades. In 1897, it became the home of China's first modern bank, Imperial Bank of China. During renovations in 1919 and 1937, the foundation and structures were reinforced while the façade was completely revitalized. Today, '6Bund' houses the French luxury menswear boutique Zilli, multi-brand store Attos, as well as Japanese, Chinese and Italian restaurants, providing a unique experience.

We continue our journey of discovery along the Bund and reach number 18. This is where the Chinese headquarters of the country's oldest foreign bank used to be situated. Completed in 1923, Palmer & Turner's Neo-classical design for the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and India featured four marble columns in the entrance vestibule. The Pavonazzo marble façade gave the building a rich, cream colour.

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In 2004, a 2-year restoration commenced and became one of the highest profile projects on the Bund, winning the 2006 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. At 'Bund18,' thoroughly-researched revitalization went beyond the surface, implementing modern design, structural reinforcement, mechanical installation and interior design to create a one-of-a-kind destination that combines shopping, art, dining and nightlife.

While you should not miss contemporary art exhibitions at Bund18 Temporary Art Space, it is Bund18's epicurean experience that really attracts visitors. With the highly anticipated opening of Hakkasan, one of ‘The World's 50 Best Restaurants’ Mr. & Mrs. Bund and many more enticing venues, the dining experience alone in Bund18 is worth your visit.