More than half a century after the last new building at the Bund, Shanghai’s historic promenade along the Huangpu River, the famous row of bank and commercial buildings from colonial times has been rounded off with a new architectural highlight. As the last building – for now – in the first row along the river, the Bund SOHO business and office ensemble, designed by gmp Architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners, adds to the characteristic skyline which gave rise to Shanghai’s reputation as the „Paris of the east“.
Design Meinhard von Gerkan and Stephan Schütz with Stephan Rewolle
Project leader, competition Su Jun
Team, competition Gao Bo, Zhang Jing
Project leader, implementation Matthias Wiegelmann, Bao Wei
Team, implementation Anne Bulanda-Jansen, Dong Shuying, Andreas Goetze, Guo Fu Hui, Peter Jänichen, Li Ling, Sebastian Linack, Mulyanto Mulyanto, Su Jun, Tian Xueli, Wang Mi, Xiao Wenda, Xie Fang, Xu Dong, Zhou Bin, Catharina Cragg, Kerstin Baur, Dai Tian Xing, Shi Xiayao, Wang Yu, Zhang Jing, Zheng Xinghui, Zhou Xuefeng
Partner office ECADI
Client SOHO China
More than half a century after the last new building at the Bund, Shanghai’s historic promenade along the Huangpu River, the famous row of bank and commercial buildings from colonial times has been rounded off with a new architectural highlight. As the last building – for now – in the first row along the river, the Bund SOHO business and office ensemble, designed by gmp Architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners, adds to the characteristic skyline which gave rise to Shanghai’s reputation as the „Paris of the east“. The practice had won the international competition organized by the SOHO China Group in 2011.
For tourists and the locals, the Bund promenade along the river bank is the attraction of the city per se – a recognizable, visual fixed point in the cityscape of this flourishing metropolis. From here, a spectacular vista opens to the Pudong finance and business district. Compared to this district’s mushrooming skyline, the row of fifty historic buildings on the Bund represents a contiguous architectural ensemble in spite of all later developments in the surrounding area and changes of use, and the stylistic variety that ranges from Neo-Gothic to Art Deco. For the Bund SOHO design, this meant that the history of the place had to be continued without nostalgia, following the unwritten rules, by creating a succinct end point to the row of buildings, in particular at the seam between the colonial town and the historic city center with its Gucheng Park and Yu Garden open areas.
The design, which occupies a prominent position, comprises six buildings which together create a composition of slabs combined in a sculptural, three-dimensional way with projections and recesses. This effect is achieved with a graded system of tapering lesenes which merge into the solid wall panels of the recessed stories and, in this way, seen from a distance, complete the image of the slabs – a directional system with façades of different characters which unifies the different scales of the neighborhood. The four high-rise office buildings ranging between 60 and 135 meters in height form a distinct edge to the development towards the south and, on the other hand, replicate the sequence of gables of the historic promenade facing the Bund. Two further low-rise buildings to the west and north which, like the lower stories of the office buildings, accommodate high-quality international restaurants and retail outlets, create a transition to the scale of the neighboring buildings. Between them a number of small lanes and squares create a network of connections with the neighborhood that continues the structure of the circulation system with its traditional orientation towards the river. The design concept of the slabs is replicated here in a ribbon structure and is repeated in the details of the foyers.
As visitors move about, the Bund SOHO development appears as a holistically designed, lively ensemble which changes dynamically with the changing angles of view. As one approaches the development along the promenade or the Huangpu River, it appears to merge into one solid architectural sculpture before, when getting closer, a surprising, almost immaterial glazed feature appears in the front elevation. Compared to the numerous individual new buildings of recent times, the Bund SOHO makes a significant contextual contribution to Shanghai’s cityscape.