History and Culture

Old skills revive classic houses

2017-08-11 09:29:00 (Beijing Time)         Shanghai Daily


Jiang Jiang, deputy director with the Xuhui housing management bureau, points to examples of "lost skills" that have been collected and cataloged at an exhibition in Xujiahui. (Bob Yang)

Shanghai's Xuhui District plans to renovate over 300 historic buildings in its Hengshan and Fuxing roads area by the end of the year with many original building skills and decorations to be revived, the district government said yesterday.

The 342 buildings to be fixed and preserved include both historic protected structures and old residential buildings, covering a total of 221,000 square meters, according to the district's housing authority. Renovation projects have started on 186,000 square meters.

To ensure the historic structures are properly restored, the district has collected and cataloged a number of traditional construction skills, many of which were brought to the city by Western architects early last century, said Jiang Jiang, deputy director with Xuhui housing management bureau.

"Those 'lost skills' have been reacquired through the demolishing campaign on some damaged houses as well as the years of preservation work on historic buildings," Jiang said.

A French-style tile, for instance, has been reconstructed and manufactured for many historic villas under renovation. The tile was widely used on the garden villas built in 1920s in the Hengshan-Fuxing Road Historic Reservation Area.

Cinder is being paved under the wooden floors of the historic villas as a traditional way to resist moisture and insects.

The bureau is displaying the skills and materials cataloged at an exhibition in the former Catholic seminary in Xujiahui.

Construction company officials taking charge of the renovation work are asked to study the skills displayed at the exhibition before starting their projects, Jiang said.

For protected buildings that have already been preserved, the government has made a detailed database for each building, including its size, inner structure, original designing charts as well as historic photos.

The Hengshan-Fuxing Road Historic Reservation Area has the largest number of well-preserved historic buildings and neighborhoods in the downtown area. The 4.3-square-kilometer area has over 1,600 historic buildings, mostly listed as protective structures, said Ru Guoming, director with the housing bureau.

The district government launched the major renovation work in 2013 and is expected to finish the first round of overall preservation by the end of next year, Ru said.