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Project Profile


2006 Award of Distinction

Bund 18

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LocationNo.18 Zhong-shan East Road, Shanghai, China

Size10,055 square metres

CostUS$ 22,000,000

Responsible PartyShanghai Bund 18 Real Estate Development Ltd.

Heritage ArchitectKokaistudios, Architectural Design and Research Institute

of Tongji University

ContractorShanghai Construction Decoration Engineering Co Ltd.

Date of Completion20 November 2004


Bund 18 is one of the key landmarks of the Bund, the iconic waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River in central Shanghai. The Bund was the main street of the British Concession in the early twentieth century and the centre of British trading activity in China at the time.

Bund 18 served as the location of China’s first foreign capital bank. The reinforced concrete and steel building was designed by the British architecture practice Palmer and Turner and built by Chinese workers using local techniques and a combination of indigenous and European materials. The neo-classical building features elegant interior details such as rare eighteenth century rose-veined Brecchia marble columns, which adorn the entrance hall.

After decades of inept adaptations and a period of disuse, the building was restored between 2002 and 2004 with the goal of rescuing the remaining historical features while rendering the premises fit for high-end commercial retail. As a pioneering venture at the time, it also sought to set a new standard for conservation in the city of Shanghai. The restoration has renewed the architectural splendour of the building, through the efforts of a team of international experts working alongside local specialists.

Building History

The building was constructed in 1923 as the Chinese headquarters of the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China. In 1955, the bank sold the property and moved out of the area, along with other foreign banks that had been located on the Bund. The Chinese government subsequently took over all of the buildings on the Bund and assigned them to government agencies and state-owned companies, which used the buildings as offices.

The original building was constructed in two parts. The front portion was completed in 1923, while the back part not completed until 1938. The back part was later used for residential purposes following the building’s change of ownership in 1955. In 1994, the back area was mostly demolished, leaving the interior exposed, which posed a structural danger to the remaining part.

Towards the end of the 1990s, Bund 18 was transferred to the current owner, a holding company controlled by the Shanghai Municipal Government. After a period of vacancy of five years, a 20-year lease was signed and the restoration project was launched. At the time the project began, the building was in a state of deterioration having been neglected and exposed to the elements for years.

Project History 

The restoration work at Bund 18 was undertaken as a collaborative project between the public and private sectors: the building is owned by the public sector and was leased to the private sector for restoration and commercially-viable reuse.

The project began in March 2002 with an initial survey and analysis of the building materials, followed by a detailed structural investigation and a stratigraphic survey to reveal the transformations to the building over the preceding 80 years. Conducted by Italian specialists in heritage restoration, the survey resulted in a thorough understanding of the building’s original structure and its pre-restoration condition, which helped inform and establish potential adaptive reuse possibilities. These options were reflected in the restoration strategy, which was prepared in November 2002.

The structural work began in March 2003, and the majority of the restoration work and new additions were carried out between December 2003 and October 2004. The building was officially opened in November 2004. Bund 18 has since become a premier destination for luxury shopping, fine dining and cultural events in the city.

Project Scope and Framework

The project sought to first address the structural damage that had occurred over the previous decade and then to implement the restoration plan. As part of the structural work, the small remaining part of the rear building was demolished and then rebuilt in order to strengthen and stabilize the overall structure.

A major part of the restoration work focused on the building façade, which was in urgent need of cleaning and repair. On the interior, historic features were renewed or replicated, while carefully-designed modern fittings, which complimented the heritage character, were inserted to ensure the building’s future function.  A sleek glass pavilion was built on the roof to replace various incongruous additions that were not in the spirit of the original design and which were causing structural damage. In addition, various services, such as pipes, drainage and electrical supply, were upgraded, in some cases benefiting not just the building but also the entire neighbourhood. 

Five Italian architects worked on-site for a 10-month period to oversee the quality of the entire restoration process, allowing for changes and revisions to the restoration plan to be made at short notice. These specialists worked closely with the Chinese builders and artisans, many of whom were not used to restoring heritage buildings.

Conservation Methodology and Materials

The project was guided by the overall objective of achieving a balance between restoring what remained of the historical features and meeting the demands of a modern building, recognizing that such adaptive reuse would invariably entail some transformation in the building’s character. The guidelines for the conservation work called for incongruous additions to be removed and damage restored in a ways that maintained signs of age as a testimony to the building’s history. For new additions, it was decided not to use designs that imitated the original style of the building, but rather, to adopt a contemporary design language that complemented the original building elements but would be clearly distinguishable as new.

The conservation philosophy attempted to reflect not only European conservation norms but also the importance of local context and sources of knowledge, as enshrined in the 1994 Nara Document on Authenticity. The preparatory survey thus encompassed not only investigations of the physical structure of the building itself, but also examined the wider cultural landscape and sought out recollections of old building inhabitants in order to obtain an accurate account and history of the spirit of the place. In lieu of historical records, which had been largely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, these studies proved especially helpful in restoring parts of the building that were missing. The project team also sought inputs from the local government and local academics, notably from Tongji University.

The project made use of world-class conservation know-how combined with a respect for local materials and building techniques. This was clearly demonstrated in the restoration of the façade, which was composed of granite surfaces and Shanghai plaster, which is a combination of gravel and cement that was popular in the city during the 1920s. The granite surfaces had suffered heavily from corrosion and carbonization, while the plaster showed less decay, with some rust spots and vegetation growth. The façade was cleaned by hand over a period of two months by 30 local workers using traditional techniques. A breathable penetrative coating was applied on all the external stone surfaces to prevent new organic growth and stains from pollution and rainwater.

The bi-chromatic bronze gates that dominate the front façade were cleaned and restored by the Italian conservation experts. The windows were completely restored using the original fittings and traditional stucco sealant. Screws and nails and other small parts were custom-made to match the originals.

The interior also received high attention to detail. Important heritage elements that were still intact were carefully cleaned and restored, including the marble columns, the remaining portions of the Roman-style marble mosaic floor and the wooden balustrade of the main staircase. Decorative ornamentation that was missing was reproduced to match extant pieces or, in the absence of any remaining examples or historic documentation, was designed after careful study of similar elements in other Palmer and Turner buildings. Inappropriate recent additions, such as the mezzanine floor that had been inserted to provide greater office floor area, were removed.

Replacements and new materials were carefully selected to harmonize with the original ones in terms of visual presentation and technical requirements. For example, new marble flooring was added to complement the remaining patch of mosaic flooring. In some cases, it required a difficult search as a number of materials had fallen out of popular use and were hard to source. A special plaster combining a Venetian technique and local materials, including sticky rice, was applied to the walls in the central staircase. New additions such as the glass panels along the mezzanine level, glass chandelier and gold wall mosaics were commissioned especially from Italy, inspired by the building’s historic features. Before installation, all new materials were chemically analyzed to ensure they matched the original materials. This was to avoid any discrepancy in the future behaviour or performance of the material.  

Important Issues

A detailed investigation of the building showed that the structural skeleton of the building consisted of a mix of steel, bricks, stone, wood and concrete, and these elements had not aged at an equal pace. It was concluded that the building’s structural capacity failed to meet the current building code and the new loading requirement for the proposed change of use. Massive structural retrofitting using carbon fibre tapes was required. This was applied to the perimeter brick walls, to the reinforced concrete slabs and also to the steel beams. Anti-corrosive treatment was applied on all reinforced concrete slabs and beams to arrest further decay.

To ensure the modern functionality of the building, the water pipes and drainage system had to be upgraded. Since many of the old pipes had been cut off in the neighbourhood, repairs had to be carried out for the whole block. Furthermore, new cable and electronic transformer facilities had to be installed as the existing power facilities could not meet the demands of the new commercial usage. 

Project Sustainability and Viability

A popular venue in Shanghai, Bund 18 is now fully leased to leading luxury brands and other commercial enterprises and the property’s value has increased. Thus, the return on the renovation is secured and the project has proved that careful and sensitive restoration of heritage buildings can be attractive in socio-economic terms.

As part of the building’s ongoing maintenance regimen, the heritage architects have provided recommendations that call for routine cleaning and repair to be carried out on the windows and façade every five to six years. Dust deposits must be removed and a new protective layer must be applied, if necessary.

Project Impact

The restoration of Bund 18 came about as part of the overall renaissance of the Bund district, which has been revived as the heart of Shanghai’s commercial and cultural activity. The project has contributed to renewing the area’s cultural continuum in both tangible and intangible terms.

By restoring the building’s architectural character and returning it to public access and commercial use, the project has opened up a vibrant new chapter in the building’s history. From a policy and technical perspective, the project served as an important demonstration of the viability of commercial adaptive reuse of buildings in the public domain. Prior to the project, due to lack of precedent and an absence of practical guidance in the commercial reuse of heritage structures, government agencies and state-owned companies rarely leased heritage buildings to the private sector. The project has provided the authorities with a successful business model as well as a technical benchmark in terms of restoration work.  In order to disseminate the lessons learned from the project, all the documents from the research and building surveys have been translated into Chinese and distributed to all related government agencies to serve as a valuable reference.

Quote from the Project Team

"Considerable time and expense were spent restoring as much as possible of the original architectural vision. Modern design additions were carefully developed to be in harmony with the original while injecting new life into this unique building for the enjoyment of a new generation of visitors. With Bund 18, we are glad to see more and more cooperation between the public and private sectors on heritage buildings not only in Shanghai but also in the rest of China."