Several years ago a decision was taken by the municipal authorities in Shanghai to restore the Bund to its pre-liberation glory.
The original inhabitants of the imposing stone edifices that line the waterfront boulevard were offered them back. But there was one condition.
They could not alter the exteriors of the buildings. They could do whatever they wanted with the interior spaces, but the exteriors had to be restored to the way they were before the Communist Conquest in 1949.
To the best of my knowledge, American International Assurance was the only firm to accept these terms. Everyone else, basically, said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation
An example is the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, which occupied the most imposing edifice of them all at No. 12 on the Bund.
Built in 1923, the six storey structure was vacated by HSBC in 1953. It currently houses the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.
Officials at HSBC were eager to reclaim this prestigious waterfront plot, but they wanted to tear it down and build a modern high rise, such as they did in Hong Kong.
Much to their credit, officials in Shanghai said, “No way!”
HSBC came up with a counter proposal. They would turn the stone edifice into a museum and build a modern high rise behind it.
Again, the officials in Shanghai refused. They didn’t want any more high rises rising behind the stone edifices along the waterfront, knowing that they would be dwarfed if a series of high rises were built behind them.
In the end, HSBC built a splendid modern high rise across the Whampoa River in the Pudong new development zone. And it has a bird’s eye view of its former headquarters at No. 12 on the Bund.
Copyright: Michael Taylor Pictured: the old headquarters of the Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation Photo Credit Los AngelesT via Wikimedia Commons