Xintiandi Shanghai

As a re-creation born out of the sprawls of Shikumen housing, which is the architectural symbol of Shanghai in the 20th century, Shanghai Xintiandi, “The City’s Living-Room' is a place to unwind and relax after a long day. A window to the past and the future, to China and the world.Shanghai Xintiandi's Shikumen attraction was created by converting residential blocks into a multifunctional dining, retail and entertainment center flowing with restaurants, boutiques, cafes and bars of an international standard. The Shikumen buildings within Shanghai Xintiandi retain the antique walls, tiles and exterior of the Shikumen housing of old Shanghai, while the internal spaces have been designed and decorated to suit the up tempo lifestyle of the 21st century urbanites, with infinite details that exude the casual elegance of modern city living. Shanghai Xintiandi is where 'yesterday meets tomorrow in Shanghai today.'

Before the development of Shanghai Xintiandi, the area it encompasses had been a spread of aged lanes crowded with mid-19th century Shikumen buildings which had witnessed the vicissitudes of time. The Shikumen style was a combination of influences from home and abroad, showcasing Shanghai's culture of that era. With the city's drive toward progress and modernity, Shikumen, as a form of residential design, began to fall out of favor, prompting some experts to predict that by the 21st century Shikumen style houing would altogether disappear.

Initially, the Shanghai Xintiandi project met fierce criticism due to many people's misunderstanding of its innovative nature and early difficulties associated with the project. Thanks to the determination of the management of Shui On Group -- the principal investor of Shanghai Xintiandi -- the project came to its full realization in mid 2001, and soon after became the focus of Shanghai's international dining, fashion, entertainment and tourist community.

What makes Shanghai Xintiandi a winning concept? Many cities around the world have their own landmark architecture set in old districts that were renovated into famous tourist spots. Mr Vincent H S Lo, chairman of the Shui On Group, believed that Shanghai in the 21st century would become an important international metropolis. Shanghai Xintiandi provided an answer for preserving the old architecture of Shanghai that would be representative of its historical and cultural heritage. The Shui On Group raised the new idea of Shikumen conversion as early as in 1997: To abandon the residential function of Shikumen, and promote its role as a business district, turning the centennial antique quarter into a world full of vitality, vigor and cultural prestige. Breaking ground in 1999, the entire project had an expected budget of US$150 million. The first stage, Xintiandi Plaza, was completed in late 2001.

Today, Xintiandi Plaza has already become a new Shanghai landmark. Containing 30,000 square metres and with a gross floor area of 60,000 square metres, the blocks of Shikumen buildings, with their preserved original walls and tiles, give tourists a unique feel of walking the bustling Shanghai streets of the 1920s and 30s. Inside every building-which may house a stylish international gallery, a trendy haute boutique, a theme restaurant, a fashionable cafe or a bar-everything is designed to keep pace with an exciting, modern lifestyle that is becoming vastly synonymous with the city of Shanghai. The marvelous Shikumen courtyard outside and the gleaming modernity inside strike a curious but charming contrast, shuttling customers between the past and the present. What's more, the assortment of street performances, the exciting promotions and first-rate events place Shanghai Xintiandi at the top of Shanghai's places to be, with its urban vitality and celebration of life.

Shanghai Xintiandi has rewritten the history of Shikumen, salvaging it from decay and revitalizing it with a new modernity. Today Shanghai Xintiandi has become the place of choice for local people, visitors from the mainland, and tourists from abroad who long to sample this glorious city's past and its dramatic metamorphosis into a metropolis booming with international promise.

Xintiandi Plaza is divided into the North and South Blocks. In the South Block, modern architecture is the motif while Shikumen is an accompaniment. In the north, preserved Shikumen set a nostalgic tone, forming a splendid contrast with the modernity to the south. A shopping, entertainment and leisure complex of 25,000 square metres in the South Block opened in mid 2002. In this modern structure full of glass screens, a flurry of businesses thrive. Aside from a series of international restaurants representing the flavors of the world, there are classy boutiques, accessory shops and a movie theater. In the North Block, antique buildings with their modern interior design, decorations and equipment play host to a dazzling array of restaurants specializing in French, American, German, British, Brazilian, Italian, Japanese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong cuisine, putting on display the full international dimension of Shanghai Xintiandi. The dividing line between the two blocks, Xingye Road, is the site of the First Congress Hall of the Chinese Communist Party. Its fellow Shikumen buildings along the sides of the street are set to become part of the scenery embodying the cultural and artistic features of the city.

The neighboring Taipingqiao Lake and Park are also built into Shanghai Xintiandi. The expansive park covers 44,000 square metres and is located at the centre of the project. Inside the park are tall trees and low-lying greenery, affording visitors a serene resting place. The lake is the largest man-made lake in downtown Shanghai, covering 12,000 square metres. At the center of the lake are a set of impressive fountains and two little islets dotting the surface. The islets are named Magnolia and Unison. The terrace surrounding the lake runs up and down, strewn with trees and bushes. A path 1,200 metres long to the north of the greenery cuts a beautiful curve on the lake, leading to the Shikumen compounds of Shanghai Xintiandi, adding to the already impressive sight of the city's new favorite landmark.

When people walk into the lanes of Shikumen buildings in Shanghai Xintiandi, they walk on the same gray flagstones and see the same red and black bricks, lacquered doors and Baroque doorframes as those who walked there generations and generations before them. Shanghai Xintiandi visitors will feel as if they are time traveling back half a century, though once they step into a Shikumen building, the sight of the new is sure to astound them. The air of international cuisines, the eclectic offerings among shops and boutiques, the endless first-rate service and the sublime beauty attached to every modern and historical detail of the compound, all reflect the dynamic fashion and character of Shanghai Xintiandi.

The Shui On group has orchestrated a splendid symphony of Shanghai's past, present and future. Here, visitors from home and abroad can truly enjoy the culture of Shanghai to their hearts' content.