On The Waterfront

Apart from The Bund, public access to the Huangpu River is limited. That’ll change in 2012 with the Huishan North Bund development. Anna Leach hears from the architects

Marina life is coming to Shanghai – to Hongkou district to be precise. The Huishan North Bund development is transforming a three-kilometre stretch of the Huangpu River’s north bank, with plans to create a broad waterside public esplanade as a contractual requirement.

New York-based architects Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn (EEK) are responsible for developing half of the site, featuring the new headquarters for the Port Authority of Shanghai, seven other office buildings and a marina surrounded by waterside restaurants and shops.

‘The marina is a way to bring the office tenants and the public to the site,’ says Ming Wu, design principal at EEK.

The marina does serve a less superficial purpose as well however – cooling the intense heat of Shanghai during the summer months. The water will be used to cool the buildings and to cool heat rejection from air conditioning – a much more effective and environmentally-friendly method than the standard practice of cooling heat rejection in the air.

‘The client is very ambitious about achieving a LEED gold rating for the entire project,’ says Wu. LEED is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the international approval rating for green buildings. Four of the buildings will have solar panels on top of their 8-10- storey-tall glass atriums, although these are more for show than a way to create energy. ‘The panels are a visible marker,’ says Mathew Snethen, EEK’s project manager. ‘It’s educational to have them on display.’ Wu and Snethen find that their Chinese clients are increasingly concerned with sustainable practices. ‘If building owners want to rent to international companies, they have to fulfil certain Corporate Social Responsibility requirements,’ explains Wu.

The most marketable feature of the development is not the sustainable kudos, however, but the spectacular views. At this point on the northeast corner of the central loop of the river, any building over a few storeys tall will have direct views of the skyscrapers of Lujiazui and The Bund. ‘Everything about the positioning of the buildings, the orientation of the individual buildings, their form and plan, has to do with capturing the views,’ says Wu.

Until now, the charm of Hongkou hasn’t been the views, but the community feel of the street markets and lane houses. Will this development dilute that? Wu insists that the heritage of Hongkou, like the Jewish quarter, is being preserved by the government. ‘In terms of charm along the riverfront,’ he says. ‘I don’t think there was any. This has always been an area of commercial maritime activities – ship building, ship repair, storage. In many ways, this is the first time in the district’s history that the public will have access to the waterfront.’

‘For any city in the world built near water, sooner or later people realise that the space along the water is some of the most valuable real estate they have,’ Wu continues. ‘So it’s going to get redeveloped, it’s inevitable.’

The inevitable will be realised in 2012, when, if EEK’s plan works out, the Huishan North Bund development will be filled with people working, shopping and enjoying the riverside. ‘You can imagine how nice the setting’s going to be,’ says Wu. ‘In the foreground there’s the marina with all these little boats; in the middle distance the Huangpu River; and in the background, the skyline of Pudong.’

On the waterfront, Time Out Shanghai, February 2011