Media Coverage

New Building Developments Divide Opinions in Historic Shanghai District

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Written by August Rick, CNN Shanghai, China

 

 Shanghai's historic Bund district, visitors circle a new theater with a brash -- and slowly rotating -- veneer of bronze-colored steel bamboo. Beside it, a pair of recently completed 590-foot-tall towers overlook the city's colonial-era buildings and the financial district just beyond.

 

These new structures form part of the Bund Finance Centre, a 4.5-million-square-foot collaboration between British architectural giants Heatherwick Studio and Foster + Partners. The development is rapidly transforming an area that is also known for its staunchly unwelcoming office buildings.

 

For now, however, it's the bronze-colored theater that is proving popular with riverside tourists.

 

Dividing opinions

Known as the Fosun Foundation, the squat, edgeless building is quirkily incongruous. Three layers of stainless steel piping slowly move on electric-motor tracks, readjusting over the course of a few minutes to reveal glimpses of glass windows and the second floor's golden balcony.

 

Approaching the building's ground floor, it is unclear where to enter the structure. The outside patio seems to merge seamlessly with the stone floor inside. But find your way in, and the space opens up to reveal a lobby, atrium and cafe, the upper floors paying homage to the open-air stages of traditional Chinese theaters.

 

Although only four stories above ground, the Fosun Foundation reaches a further four floors beneath it. The basement levels host several echoing auditoriums and a series of white-walled hallways that will connect the building with the adjoining complex.

 

Heatherwick Studio founder, Thomas Heatherwick said his team was influenced by "the materiality and scale" of existing historic buildings along the city's famous Bund.

 

"The opportunity to make something new in this prominent location that had formerly been the river gateway to Shanghai's Old Town was extraordinary," Heatherwick said in a press release.

 

"With a project that would create 420,000 square meters of space, we felt a great duty to look for fresh ways to connect with China's amazing built heritage and make a meaningful public place for thousands of people to work and come together."

 

Other architects offer differing views on the new theater and arts center.

"The market is saturated, so developers are reaching for more creative approaches that add extra value -- value that isn't necessarily economic," said Miguel Bispo of David Chipperfield Architects, a firm that has also worked on developments in the Bund district.