Haipai culture center showcases best of Zhangyuan
A haipai culture center has been unveiled at the historic Zhangyuan as the very cultural essence of one of Shanghai's best-preserved and most diverse shikumen compounds.
Zhangyuan, or Zhang's Garden, earned its name after Wuxi business tycoon Zhang Shuhe, also known as Chang Su-ho, bought the property and opened it to the public in 1885 as China's first modern pleasure garden.
With an inexhaustible supply of novelties on offer, like a roller coaster, bike racing and movie screenings, it soon rose to become a popular rendezvous. With the completion of the city's tallest western-style building – Arcadia Hall – in 1893, the garden ushered its heyday which lasted to the early 1900s.
But after Zhang died in 1919, his dream park died with him. The garden area was subdivided and sold to 28 developers.
Though Arcadia Hall, as the garden's signature building, was pulled down, most of others survived the wrecking ball, creating an architectural treasure trove.
The plan to revive Zhangyuan's former glory was launched in 2018. A year ago, the western section was the first to have restoration and renovation completed. With its luxury brands and Instagrammable stores, it became a popular destination.
As a highlight of an array of its first anniversary celebrations, "Arcadia Lab" Haipai (Shanghai-style) Culture Exchange Center officially opened on Friday.
"Arcadia Hall" represents the culmination of Zhangyuan, and its name was adopted to recreate its glamour, according to Jing'an Real Estate Group, which operates Zhangyuan.
The center, at the No.8 Building, showcases Zhangyuan's past and future blueprint, and displays works of Shanghai celebrities such as painter Tang Yun, educator Huang Yanpei and actor Zhao Dan.
Notably, a series of creative products embedded with Zhangyuan elements have been unveiled, and various cultural activities such as exhibitions, salons and performances will be staged at the center on a regular basis.
At the center's launch ceremony, Jing'an Real Estate Group signed strategic cooperation with the Shanghai Museum and Shanghai Dongfang Newspaper Co, assigning them as the first "culture partners" of Zhangyuan. More partners are welcome.
Over the past year, the western section has been reincarnated as a site of fashion, culture and commerce.
Currently, it has 14 renowned international brands, such as the first Maison Sisley in the Asia Pacific region and the first Bay Far store in Asia.
Three of the world's biggest fashion conglomerates - LVMH, Richemont and Kering - have stolen a march on their rivals in securing vantage storefronts in the redevelopment. They are promising displays of luxury goods never before seen on domestic Chinese shelves.
The renovation of the eastern section is still underway. It is set to be completed in 2026, featuring an art museum designed by renown Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, and a boutique hotel renovated from a masterpiece by famed architect Laszlo Hudec – the former site of Gonghui Hospital – in addition to residences, offices and commercial complexes.