An Architecture Tour of the Shanghai Bund: the HSBC Building

The Bund boasts of the glory of “World Architecture Exhibition” – many architectural masterpieces lying in a row along the 100-meter-long Bund. They witness the 100 years history of the Bund and the legends of Shanghai. No matter how many grand buildings have been built since then, these architectural buildings on the Bund have been a permanent landmark of this city.

Does the Bund bring glory to these architectural works or do these architectural works endow the Bund with great fame? Follow Annie to take an architecture tour of the Bund, Shanghai, you may have your own answer. Today we will take a close look at the HSBC Building.

HSBC Building, the Bund

Walk to the Bund from the pedestrian street of Nanjing Road, then turn right and pass Jiujiang Road, you can see the HSBC Building, situated at No. 12, the Bund.

The night view of the HSBC on the Bund

Being the world-famous financial market, the Bund used to be called the “Oriental Wall Street” in 1930s. Among the banks housed on the Bund, HSBC was the most influential. It was originally located at the intersection of Nanjing Road, at today’s South Building of the Peace Hotel. Later, due to business expansion, more working space was needed. In 1921, the bank bought a piece of land at a low price. In 1923, the majestic building was completed and served as the headquarters of HSBC till the outbreak of the Pacific War. Shanghai People’s Government was stationed in the building in 1955. In 1997, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank gained the right to use the building until now.

The HSBC Building was designed by Palmer & Turner Group and built by the British contractor Trollope & Colls. When completed in 1923, it sparkled they eyes of everyone and boasted “the most luxurious building from the Suez Canal to the Bering Strait”. The building takes up an area of 11,332.2 square meters with a construction area of 32,000 square meters, which make it the largest building of mock classic style occupying the biggest and broadest area along the Bund. The main section of the building completely adopts steel and concrete framework. The dome part employs a steel frame which leaves no trace on the façade of the building.

Interior of the HSBC on the Bund

It is said that at the beginning of construction, Yasheng Coins (a kind of special coin mainly used for ritual uses) as well as coins from countries all over the world were laid under the foundation stone – a Chinese tradition.

Another demonstration of Chinese tradition was the two bronze lions made in the UK. These two lions at the entrance are special. Different from the normal “Female-Male” format, both the lions are males and each was named. The one with its mouth widely open and roaring is called Stephen, which was named after A.G. Stephen – the general manager of Hong Kong headquarters between 1920 and 1924. The other with a solemn expression was called Stitt, the name of the manager of Shanghai Branch – G.H.Stitt. Whether the characters of the two gentlemen were accurately mirrored in the expressions of the two lions, i.e., one capable and vigorous, and the other reserved and serious, is anybody’s guess. Though the two lion you see today are replicas of the original ones, the golden copper appearances of the two lions are more and more shiny and polished, thanks to the day-to-day stroking by passengers praying for good fortune.

Two bronze lions at the entrance of the HSBC on the Bund

The most appealing part of the building is the huge hemisphere-shaped dome, which is unique on the Bund. If you have seen the Pantheon in Rome, it is easy to see similarities between the two. Go through the revolving door to enter the rotunda, look upward, you will find the most gorgeous part in the building – the dome. The whole dome is elaborately decorated with exquisitely enchased mosaic frescos. On the lower tier is the pattern of Twelve Houses of the Zodiac. And down to the next tier are frescos depicting 8 cities – Shanghai, London, Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo, Paris, Bangkok and Calcutta. Each painting bears a God representing each city. The backgrounds of the paintings feature the landmarks of each city. Below the paintings and in between the eight columns, there are 16 Greek mythological figures symbolizing 16 noble virtues including prudence and equity, which a qualified banker must have. These mosaic frescos were plastered over in 1954 and remained undiscovered until 1997.

The roof of the HSBC on the Bund

In addition the rotunda, the four whole marble lonic columns are also worth a look. It is said there are only six such columns in existence in the world, and the remaining two are housed in Louvre. The elevator in the building is also another attraction. At top of the old-fashioned brass elevator door is a semicircular clock dial marked with figures 0,1,2,3, and 4. It is amazing to see the clock dial rotating as the elevator reaches each floor.

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