Saturday, June 14, 2014



Old Shanghai Charm Unveiled in Hengshan Fang,
Xujiahui's New Backyard Garden

Restored heritage architecture evokes
Slow-paced lifestyle of old Shanghai
Restoration work is now complete on Hengshan Fang, a striking new Shanghai landmark that brings more art and culture to burgeoning Xujiahui central business district. Comprised of residential buildings constructed in the 1930s and 40s, the newly restored Hengshan Fang preserves the essential charm and character of old Shanghai while recasting the contemporary urban lifestyle through modern design. 

The result is a unique corner of the city where foreigners and locals may discover the essence of Shanghainese culture and savour the slow-paced lifestyle of the city's past.

A typical residential community of early 20th century Shanghai, Hengshan Fang is an archetypal blend of eastern and western architecture. Constructed during the 1930s and 40s at the height of the Republic of China era, the development sits in central Xujiahui at the intersection of Hengshan and Tianping Roads and includes 11 western-style garden houses and two rows of the alleyway houses known as xinshi linong. 

The garden houses have largely been converted into boutique retail shops, while the alleyway row houses have been repurposed to provide creative office space, art space and restaurants offering international cuisines.

Former gathering place of cultural elites
Shaded by Chinese parasol trees in the warm seasons, Hengshan Fang, or Shude Fang as it was known in the early 20th century, constitutes a romantic and culturally rich corner of Shanghai. It enjoyed the reputation of an elegant neighborhood where cultural celebrities often gathered. 

Famous residents included the movie director Fei Mu, whose film "Spring in a Small City" is credited with establishing the poetic genre of Chinese cinema. Mr. Fei, who moved into Shude Fang in 1932, would often be visited at his home by Beijing opera greats Mei Lanfang and Jiang Miaoxiang, the actor Liu Qiong and other renowned artists.

From his home in Hengshan Fang, Mr. Fei played an important role in fostering the talents of many young artists and scholars, including another community's resident, Zhang Yuquan. Ms. Zhang became China's first professional female architect and, along with her husband Fei Kang, made significant contributions to Shanghai's architectural heritage through the Spanish-style buildings designed by the couple's architecture firm. 

Yet another notable resident was Luo Shu, one of the foremost female authors of the Republic of China era, who moved into Hengshan Fang in 1937.

Mr. Fei's daughter Barbara Fei, who herself became a celebrity singer in Hong Kong, recalls Hengshan Fang as a harmonious community where neighbors would often organize plays and performances on summer evenings.

Old neighborhood reverberates with new melodies
Although largely typical of early-20th-century Shanghai residential developments, Hengshan Fang is special for having two different forms of period homes. The alleyway row houses in the north of the development, built in 1934, are similar to many Shanghai alleyway homes of the period. 

The garden houses, built in 1948, draw heavily upon western architecture, and their mixed wood-brick construction may be considered an innovation on the traditional wooden Chinese house. The two types of residential buildings sitting side by side lend richness and diversity to the space within Hengshan Fang.

The redevelopment of Hengshan Fang gave first consideration to the property's original architecture and location and sought to accentuate the elegant and artistic nature of its space while respecting its culture and history. While conserving the original architectural styles, proportions and layout, the restored and upgraded buildings have been skillfully reconstituted to mostly serve four major functions, namely “art and creative office space”, “boutique retail”, “elegant lifestyle” and “fine dining”.

A large multi-entrance plaza circumscribed by the neighborhood's lanes evokes an old Shanghai tradition of friendly social gatherings at alleyway entrances. Subtle, illuminated light strips embedded in the plaza's granite pavement guide visitors in their search for the historical essences of the city. These and other delicate touches further enrich the distinctively Shanghainese character of Hengshan Fang.

A Xujiahui government spokesperson described Hengshan Fang as a model for preserving the architectural heritage of Shanghai's old alleyway homes and garden houses, and stated that the restoration and redevelopment of Hengshan Fang significantly improves the Xujiahui business district.

Green low-carbon design brings new look to old building
The Hengshan Fang redevelopment project accords to the principles of high building efficiency and low carbon emissions, adhering specifically to the China Green Building Two-Star standard.  

The introduction of intelligent room environment monitoring systems, recycled building materials, green walls and other innovations have transformed the old buildings of Hengshan Fang into models of green design, while enhancing their function and character.

Before redevelopment, the interior structures and facades of Hengshan Fang's buildings were in a state of grave disrepair, as might be expected of an 80-year old property. In order to fortify the buildings, Shanghai Hengfu Property Company hired several specialist firms to carry out comprehensive reinforcement and restoration. 

These included Sunyat Architectural Design Company, which was contracted to oversee and coordinate the entire project, and the Architectural Design and Research Institute of Tongji University, which was delegated most of the design work. Atelier Archmixing was specially invited to design Hengshan Fang building #8, and the Taiwan-based Old Farmer Landscape Architecture Company was chosen for landscape design.

The Xujiahui business district adjacent to Hengshan Fang is a shopper's paradise with several malls and department stores where one finds retail, dining and entertainment outlets of every stripe and colour. With several entrances, Hengshan Fang is just minutes by foot from everything, including Xujiahui Station where three subway lines converge.

"The redevelopment of Hengshan Fang is nicely timed to complement the ongoing second upgrade of the Xujiahui central business district," said Zhu Jinsong, General Manager of Shanghai Hengfu. "The graceful early 20th century architecture of Hengshan Fang also provides a nice contrast to the glittering steel and glass towers and malls of the area."

Mr. Zhu continued: "Strictly respecting relevant government rules and guidelines for the protection of historical buildings, we aimed to revivify a historic neighborhood through the restoration of its architecture and discrete introduction of new modern lifestyle elements, and I believe we have succeeded. Hengshan Fang is due to become a kind of backyard garden for the Xujiahui commercial district and one of Shanghai's most important lifestyle landmarks.

"Going forward, we will try to further enrich the Hengshan Fang tenant mix of cultural enterprises and boutique retailers, with JingAn International Sculpture Park and the Arario Gallery of Korea scheduled to establish their presence in Hengshan Fang soon."

According to developers, Hengshan Fang will accommodate a large number of eminent overseas and domestic art galleries, design studies and international restaurants. Starbucks has chosen Hengshan Fang as an address for one of its rare Starbucks Barista Coffe Maker shops in China. Serviced creative office spaces within Hengshan Fang will offer the highest grade of comfort, service and style.

Fei Mu:
Born in Shanghai in 1906, Fei Mu worked for the Lianhua Film Company and is widely considered to be one of the top directors in Chinese cinema. His representative work "Spring in a Small City" established an entire new Chinese cinematic genre known as the "poetic film". Mr. Fei died in Hong Kong in 1951.

About Hengshan Fang
Located in central Shanghai beside Xujiahui Park, Hengshan Fang is a neighborhood of restored historical buildings that are representative of residential architecture in 1930-1940s Shanghai. The buildings include two rows of traditional alleyway homes constructed in 1934, and 11 independent western-style garden homes erected in 1948. 

Through meticulous planning and design, these former residences have now been transformed into fashion boutiques, upscale restaurants and bars, creative office spaces, art galleries and spaces for other leisure and business pursuits. The development covers an area of 0.57 hectares, with total build area of nearly 7,300 square metres.

Shanghai Hengfu Property Company carried out the redevelopment planning of Hengshan Fang and invited a team of specialist organisations to reinforce and upgrade building structures, restore original surface textures and discretely integrate various green technologies and lifestyle elements. 

The result is a historical neighborhood that exudes warm Shanghainese charm, a place where one may step outside the city bustle and savour a few moments of the slow-paced life of old Shanghai.

About Shanghai Hengfu Property Company:
Shanghai Hengfu Property Company is a specialist firm that was established in July 2007 with investment from Xufang Group. With registered capital of RMB 300 million, the company engages in the restoration and redevelopment of historical neighborhoods, old garden homes, alleyway homes and other historical properties.  The company presently holds interests in a number of business categories, including boutique hotels, serviced apartments, creative office space and fine restaurants. To learn more about Shanghai Hengfu, please visit

Restored Heritage Architecture in Hengshan Fang, Xujiahui's New Backyard Garden

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