'Stone house' set to get 4th corner

A major renovation has begun on the "stone house" to restore and expand it in keeping with the original vision of its architect.
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A bird’s-eye view of the former Shanghai Municipal Council building near the Bund yesterday. Renovation has just begun on the iconic “stone house” to restore and expand the structure following the original vision of its architect.

Few city buildings compare to the former home of Shanghai Municipal Council near the Bund where many historic events took place.

A major renovation has begun on the “stone house” to restore and expand it in keeping with the original vision of its architect.

The building at 193 Hankou Road was originally built to manage local foreign settlements but later housed Shanghai government.

The national flag was raised for the first time in the city over the building in October 1949. Shanghai’s first mayor Chen Yi (1901-1971) signed an agreement there with Kuomintang official Zhao Zukang to take over the city.

Physicist Albert Einstein gave a lecture on the theory of relativity in the auditorium in 1923.

After decades without major renovations, the structure is somewhat careworn and scruffy, its granite facade weathered, its stairs and mosaic floors downtrodden. Iron-framed windows cannot be closed, the paintwork is cracked and falling away.

To restore it to its former glory, Huangpu District government has begun renovations to preserve the deteriorating structure. Approximately one-third of complex was never completed according to its original blueprint and that work will now be done.

Work is scheduled to be finished by the building’s centenary in 2022, Shanghai Bund Regeneration, the company in charge of the project, said yesterday.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

The former Shanghai Municipal Council building is cordoned off for the renovation.

When ready, 70 percent of the building will become offices, 20 percent will be venues for small concerts and exhibitions, while the rest will be commercial property.

The auditorium, originally built for military training, will host plays and concerts, while two squares in the heart of the complex will be opened to the public.

The original design was found at the British Museum in London, a Shanghai Bund Regeneration official said. “We want to be true to the vision of the architect based on the blueprint.”

The five-story neoclassical building features a granite facade, Baroque styling, Ionic columns and arched windows. On Hankou, Jiangxi M. and Fuzhou roads the building encompasses a closed courtyard, but the structure suddenly ends with a gap on the southwest corner.

Construction started in 1913, was delayed due to the breakout of World War I in 1914 and was eventually finished in November 1922. It was never completed to the original design, mainly due to lack of funds.

The main entrance and main hall were covered with black and white granite. Its four elevators, modern sanitary equipment and heaters were imported from Britain.

According to the renovation plan by David Chipperfield Architects, the remaining third of the building will be built to the original design and the auditorium rebuilt, as the original structure was destroyed in a fire a decade ago.

The exterior will be repaired. Windows and doors will be refurbished. The mayor’s office where Chen Yi worked, and the boardroom, will be restored to their original look.

The city government was relocated to the HSBC Building on the Bund in 1955. The building then housed the city’s civil affairs, greenery, health and human resources authorities.

Preparation for renovation and expansion started in 2014. Nearby households and offices have been relocated.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A main hall of the former Shanghai Municipal Council building.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A typical stairwell and iron handrail in the building.

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