Typical shikumen lane to be reassembled for protection

Half of the Shangxian Hall Lane on Huaihai Road M. has been taken apart to make way for the construction of Metro Line 14, but will be restored later.

A section of historic buildings in a typical shikumen (stone gate) lane in downtown Shanghai have been dismantled and will be reassembled later.

The last two lanes of residential buildings in the Shangxian Hall Lane, meaning "Respect Intellectuals," at 358 Huaihai Road M. have been taken apart to make way for the construction of Metro Line 14 beneath the lane compound, the city's cultural heritage authority said.

The red-brick lane, built in 1924 and under city-level protection status, is being redeveloped into an upmarket commercial complex that will include a five-star hotel, according to the city’s top planning body.

"The last two lanes of buildings will be restored to their original look after the completion of the subway and other underground constructions," said Li Kongsan, director of the cultural heritage protection department of the Administration of Cultural Heritage.

"All the main architectural parts have been well-protected during dismantling," Li told Shanghai Daily.

Some nearby residents and cultural heritage experts have complained that half of the protected historic buildings disappeared overnight, worried they were being "demolished covertly."

"The authority must take complete protective measures, especially upon these century-old structures," said Wang Yi, a researcher with the Shanghai History Museum. He said it is better to protect the buildings as a whole.

"The administration and the planning body have studied for years and solicited opinions from many experts to make the redevelopment plan," Li said. "The city government approved the plan after full consideration."

According to Shanghai Planning, Land and Resources Administration, the shikumen buildings will become loft office buildings and sites for commercial facilities. Underground parking lots will be built beneath the preserved structures.

A 42-floor building will be built behind the four rows of shikumen buildings and will be home to a five-star hotel as well as stores and offices.

The lane, featuring a white Baroque-style facade, is one of the most well-preserved shikumen lanes in Shanghai and was listed as a city-level protected historic structure in 1989. The 395 households that lived there were all relocated by last July.

The lane compound was built by a real estate company on the lawn of Shangxian Hall, an international institute founded by American missionary Gilbert Reid (1857-1927) in 1903. Chinese and Western lecturers taught English, business, law and politics on the site.

Original residents included bank clerks, teachers and company employees.

However, the original structure of the buildings was later altered by some tenants who built illegal additions, and some knocked down walls to open stores and hair salons along Huaihai Road.

Further, some buildings had deteriorated to the point where walls were crumbling.

Shikumen, an architectural style using Western and Chinese elements, first appeared in Shanghai in the 1860s.

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