Shanghai’s Traditional Shikumen Buildings Get a Facelift
A unique facet of Shanghai, old lane houses called shikumen (石库门) can be found by the dozen downtown.
The Shanghainese architectural style, which dates back to the 1860s, sees a blend characteristics from siheyuan or traditional Chinese courtyard houses and Western terrace houses.
During the early 20th century, shikumen made up up to 60% of Shanghai’s housing.
In December 2022, after four years of extensive renovations, Zhang Yuan — a shikumen compound off West Nanjing Road — partially reopened to the public.
The foundations for Zhang Yuan, which translates to ‘Zhang’s Garden,’ were first laid by a wealthy merchant named Zhang Honglu in 1882.
The neighborhood has a storied history. Zhang Yuan served as one of Shanghai’s first public spaces. It was also here where China’s very first electric lamp was lit, and where Sun Yat-sen, the former President of the Republic of China, delivered a highly important speech.
After a long period of disrepair, the city government decided to restore Zhang Yuan to preserve its historical and cultural significance in 2018.
While the renovations will reportedly last until 2026, a 16-building portion of the lane houses is nowopen to the public.
Luxury brands like Vacheron Constantin and Moet & Chandon grace these historic homes today. In the near future, Zhang Yuan will welcome artgalleries, a theater, and aboutique hotel.
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