Restoration Project, Three Years In The Making, Opens In Time For Shanghai Expo
Last week, Shanghai’s historic Bund reopened to much fanfare after a three-year project to restore the area to its Jazz Age heyday. Opened just in time for the impending Shanghai World Expo, the Bund restoration project follows similar initiatives the city has undertaken in recent years to give new life to some of its historic 1930s structures (previously on Jing Daily) and promote areas like the Bund as the Chinese counterpart to the Champs-Élysées or 5th Avenue. From the AFP:
But perhaps the biggest surprise to come out of the facelift so far, is the crazy paint job the city commissioned — and paid for — in the older areas of the city. When the tiers of bamboo scaffolding started to come down, people suddenly noticed whole neighbourhoods were the same colour. All the houses in the lanes off Shaanxi Nan Lu, for instance, are now pale grey. On a nearby street, the buildings, one and all, are a cream colour.
The effect is to create a Potemkin village seemingly full of empty facades out of some of Shanghai’s most picturesque neighbourhoods.
The Bund restoration is designed to evoke the feel of Shanghai’s “Paris of the East” days, when the city was among the most cosmopolitan and multicultural in the world. But will it succeed where other historical “restoration” projects in China — most notably, Beijing’s Qianmen area and, as many worry, that city’s upcoming Gulou demolition/reconstruction plan — have failed? Does most concern about the city’s “Potemkin-ization” simply emanate from oversensitive foreigners who prefer the city’s gritty charm, rather than from the Shanghainese themselves? Only time will tell.