Following the establishment of international trading relations in the nineteenth century, Shanghai became a commercial and cultural centre of East Asia and home to a large number of European commercial offices and consulates. Examples of Shanghai’s Art Deco style – European building styles combined with Asian elements, characteristic of the city’s early twentieth century architecture, are strung along the Bund, Shanghai’s boulevard on the west bank of the Huangpu river. An ensemble of historic buildings, now called the Rockbund Project, reflects the diversity of the colonial architecture and forms the Northern part of the Bund. By restoring the existing buildings and planning new ones, a team of international architects is helping to revitalise the Rockbund Project, which will accommodate office complexes, hotels, retail and apartments. David Chipperfield Architects has been commissioned with the restoration and conversion of eleven buildings.
The aim of the restoration concept is to present buildings that have aged with dignity and style: The façades will be carefully cleaned and repaired without destroying the original fabric. Subsequent conversions will be removed and the buildings returned to their original state as much as possible. Existing structures within the roof area of some buildings will be expanded in reaction to contemporary changes in usage. The expansion of the Andrews & George Building to create Rockbund 6 will see its historic fabric being combined with contemporary architecture: The listed three-storey façade of the existing building that marks the southern edge of the planning area will be renovated and eleven storeys added in the form of a stacked construction.
The extensions to the National Industrial Bank (N.I.B.) and the Royal Asiatic Society (R.A.S.) Building are visible from Museum Square, the inner courtyard located in the south-west of the block. The new façades have been rendered using ‘Shanghai Plaster’ of the same quality as that used on the adjoining buildings. The former R.A.S. Building, once China’s first public museum, now houses the Rockbund Art Museum – a museum of contemporary art. Inside the Art Deco style building, the newly created flexible areas enable a range of different presentation concepts and the volumes of the upper floors have been spatially linked through the creation of a new atrium. The whole Rockbund Project will be accomplished with the completion of Rockbund 6 in 2013. The restoration works on the façades of the historic buildings will be finished by the end of 2010 and the Rockbund Art Museum will be opened on 4 May 2010 with an exhibition of works by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang.