An Architecture Tour of the Shanghai Bund: Fairmont Peace Hotel

Standing at No.20 on the Bund along the bank of Huangpu River for almost one hundred years, Peace Hotel has long enjoyed great fame in Shanghai. For foreigners who travel all the way to Shanghai in pursuit of their “Far-East dreams”, it bears the image of the “adventurers’ paradise” and “the First Building in the Far East”. For architecture lovers, it is the first modern-style building in Shanghai in a real sense, a building designed by a brand name Palmer & Turner Co. For a tourist who tries to seek classic dreams of Shanghai, the romantic Jazz music echoing in Peace Hotel is irresistible. While for Shanghai locals, the green pinnacle has always been an irreplaceable landmark of the Bund.

Fairmont Peace Hotel Shanghai

The Peace Hotel (the former Sassoon House) was established in 1929 and invested by Sir Victor Sassoon, a descendent of an Anglo-Jewish family. As the first high-rise of over ten floors back that time in Shanghai, its completion was a milestone in Shanghai architectural history and this building was thus termed as “the First Building in the Far East”.

Except for the rooms on the first floor that were rented out to the Dutch Bank and the Belgian Bank, the rest of its rooms were all owned by Cathay Hotel. Guest rooms of the hotel were designed in 9 exotic styles of different countries – Germany, Japan, France, Great Britain, China, United States, India, Spain, and Italy. Among those rooms, the most luxurious and best preserved is Sassoon’s own suites of English style on the 10th floor. Due to its luxury and magnificence, Cathy Hotel held a leading position upon its completion. It had attracted many celebrities from all over the world, for example, General G. Marshall, Charles Chaplin and George Bernard Shaw. Knight Noel Coward, the famous British writer also finished his most dazzling drama Private Lives in the then Room 314.

Peace Hotel Shanghai - Chinese style suite

The 77-meter-high Sassoon House follows the Chicago Gothic architectural style, with 12 floors. It is the earliest high-rise of typical Art Deco Style. The 19-meter-high pinnacle is the most eye-catching part of the building. Its special, delicate design – in a shape similar to a pyramid, a dark green body with iron-stained red ridges – gives it graceful and stately beauty.

Peace Hotel Shanghai - the pinnacle

Besides this, the design of the whole building is straightforward, with granite-covered walls, vertical lines on the façade, and only a few geometric patterns carved on the cornice and borders. On the front of the tenth floor facing Huangpu River, a small projecting balcony adds some lively variation to the edifice.

Fairmont Peace Hotel

Walking into the revolving door of Sassoon House is like walking into a living dream. The unbelievably magnificent decorations will be shaking everyone who comes closer. Located at the intersection of two walkways towards the lobby, the Octagonal Hall is an octagonal glass rotunda with a floor area of 1,600 square meters. With an ornamental engraving chandelier hung above from the ceiling, the hall highlights a vast yellow glass roof with sunshine softly cast onto the white ivory Italian marble floor. Silver-leaf-coated relievo carved along the four inner walls give a vivid portrayal of the charming Bund landscape.

Peace Hotel Shanghai - the lobby

Peace Hall, with exquisite beauty beyond description, is located on the 8th floor of the hotel. Inside the hall is the treasure of the hotel – Laliqe Art Glass, an especially valuable artwork of glass which used to be fashionable all over the world in the last century, especially in Europe. In those days, the advertisement of Cathay Hotel was – “the largest and most magnificent hotel in Shanghai”. Perhaps, instead of being a locution of overstatement in advertising, it can find its true proof in this hall.

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Along with extravagant investment, Sir Victor Sassoon has also put the emblem of Sassoon Family into the mansion. The ubiquitous emblem of cute greyhound can be found everywhere – on the roof, entrance of the elevators, and patterns on the ironwork, etc. Now, you can still come across them in places like lobby and door lintel.

In 1956, Cathy Hotel was renamed as Peace Hotel. In 1965, No.19 East Zhongshan Road No. 1 merged with it and the two are thus called North Building and South Building. The North Building is today the Fairmont Peace Hotel run by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts of Canada. The South Building is today The Swatch Art Peace Hotel.

Travel Tips:

From 19:30pm to 2:00am everyday, the Old Jazz Bar of Peace Hotel becomes the most popular place for Shanghai expatriates. In such an English countryside style bar with an exotic atmosphere, where you can not only taste rich Italian coffee, Irish coffee and special cocktails, but also enjoy European and American pop music of the 1930s and 1940s played by the Old Jazz Band. This atmosphere would take you back to a hall showcasing world culture and classical art. Appreciating music in the Old Jazz Bar is a top choice.

Peace Hotel Shanghai - Old Jazz Bar

Providing guests a combination of hotel and museum seems somewhat an impossible mission for most of its counterparts, yet, Peace Hotel did it thanks to its rich culture and long history. Sitting on the first floor, Peace Gallery is a place where you can find intriguing stories and precious collections of the time-honored hotel. Nothing will be missed in the museum from the old silver ware, porcelain, art decoration and menus once used in the hotel, to photos, postcards, anecdotes concerned with it.

Peace Hotel is located between East Nanjing Road and Dianchi Road, facing directly the Ticket Office of Sightseeing Tunnel of the Bund. Buying a ticket, you can realize a wish of viewing the scenery under Huangpu River. A vehicle like a trolley car will take you through a tunnel lighted by high-tech lights. The entrance and exit in Puxi sit near the north side of Chen Yi Square and those in Pudong are situated by the south side of Oriental Pearl TV Tower.

If you would prefer sightseeing on Huangpu River, you can try the Huangpu River Cruise. The Ticket Office is just nearby. Boarding on the boat, feeling the breeze from the river, you have old classic buildings on the Bund on one side and modern skyscrapers on the other.

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