An Architecture Tour of the Shanghai Bund: Bund 18

Visiting Shanghai, you have no reason to miss the Bund, especially the buildings on the Bund. The building complex on the Bund, crowned as the “World Architecture Exhibition”, stands stately along the Huangpu River. Together with the wide expanse of green on the Bund, these buildings constitute a hue of a cosmopolitan city that will never fade. Now, follow Annie to take an architecture tour of the Bund. Today we will go to discover the Bund 18.

An Architecture Tour of the Shanghai Bund-Bund 18

Built in 1923, Bund 18 used to the seat of the British Royal Oriental Banking Corporation with a British Royal Charter, and was the first foreign bank to enter China. Originally Bund 18 was a three-story English architectural work. In 1922 it was rebuilt, designed by Palmer & Turner Group.

The exterior walls of Bund 18 are paved with granite stones. The most eye-catching part on the exterior is the two giant Ionic columns from the second to the fourth floor. Employing the Classic elements in its decoration is the distinct feature of Neo-Classic architecture. Behind the massive stone columns is the glass wall, which appears unexpectedly slim and graceful. Its triangular top renders the building more exquisite.

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Once you are at the entrance, don’t forget to have a look at the two copper gates. It is said that the copper gates enchased with complicated Greek patterns are the only ones forged with alloy of bronze and red copper. With extraordinarily exquisite floral designs, they are reputed as the most beautiful copper gates on the Bund.

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Behind the gate is a small hall decorated with four marble pillars made with Italian marble. This marble used to be quarried on a large scale for use in carved decorations in the Renaissance in the mid-18th century. Afterwards, this kind of marble virtually disappeared. The material of these four pillars, according to records, was taken from a church in Tuscany, Italy 200 years ago, and was shipped all the way to Shanghai.

Going further, you will turn your attention to the floor of the hall. Experts had wanted to floor it with large pieces of marble, yet later found that the floor had a difference in elevation from west to east by about 10 cm, which was due to subsidence – a special geographical phenomenon in Shanghai. So they used hundreds of thousands of small marbles instead, which avoided the slope and gives prominence to the visual effects of round floral designs.

Around 2002, in order to restore the original style as much as possible, a veteran relic restoration expert from Venice, Italy was invited to participate in the innovation and decoration of Bund 18. To clean without damaging the exterior walls, 20 workers brushed the surfaces for as long as 3 months with brushes similar to toothbrushes. The restoration of the interior walls was even more pains-taking. They saturated the marble with natural solutions through tissue paper, which absorbed the salt in the marble. Thus, the original color of the marble was restored. The dirty interior walls were painted with a paint compounded with sticky rice, marble powder and lime powder. It is said that in order to compound this special paint, the architects went to almost all food stores and experimented on pot after pot of steamed rice.

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The renovation of the building was completed in 2004 and its function changed thoroughly. Today, the building houses flagship stores of world fashion brands, world-renowned restaurants, bars and art galleries, thus evolving into a top-level multi-functional shopping mall as well as a new fashion landmark of Shanghai. Among the World Architecture Exhibition on the Bund, Bund 18 is one of the few buildings which deserve a close look inside. Once you step into this magnificent edifice, you are virtually on a magic trip.

The 1st and 2nd floors are sparking with fashion brands such as Cartier, Ermenegildo Zegna, VERTU, Boucheron, and Patek Philippe, each securing a position there. These franchised stores will provide you with a vast array of choices.

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Besides top grade shopping, the food here is another attraction. “Tan Wai Lou Chinese Restaurant” with colors of mainly red and black, is located on the 5th floor, commanding a view of the Oriental Pearl Tower. The presentation of its dishes is so exquisite that you may feel it hard to set your chopsticks on them. Sitting on the terrace of “Bar Rouge” on the 7th floor, sipping some wine in the breeze, and appreciating the beautiful night view of Pudong seem to be a routine pleasure for people coming here. Both the wine and the scenery are intoxicating and pleasing to body and mind. If you only want to sit here quietly and enjoy the beauty accumulated through the ages in this edifice, just order a cup of coffee in the lobby.

Bund 18 is not the first architecture on the Bund that was transformed to commercial use. However, it is the only architecture in Mainland China that won the 2006 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation program. Bund 18 has become a special symbol of the city, and it is truly a place worth a visit.

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