A legendary Shanghai pleasure palace dating back to the city’s ‘Pearl of the Orient’ heyday has been returned to its former glory by HBA/Hirsch Bedner Associates and re-opened as the Waldorf Astoria On The Bund.
The iconic English Renaissance-style landmark, dating back to the Victorian era, was once Shanghai’s most exclusive and prestigious social club with bowling alleys, restaurants, an oyster bar, games rooms, barber’s shop and two wine cellars. Its fabled Long Bar, extending 35 metres, was once the longest bar in the world.
“Restoring this forlorn property was a tremendous honour and true labour of love, the ultimate challenge of taking historical context and adding up-to-date convenience and style” said HBA Principal, Ian Carr.
The building on The Bund has, over the years, accommodated office space, a casino, motion picture sound stage and, most recently, a fast food restaurant. But it is now reborn, recapturing the spirit and romance of its bygone era while creating a new benchmark in luxury travel for Hilton Hotel Corporation’s first Waldorf Astoria in Asia.
One of the finest architectural gems along Shanghai’s waterfront promenade, the whitewashed facade is adorned with Palladium columns, intricate gables and a pair of sculpted rooftop cupolas. The prestigious new hotel features a total of 266 rooms, four restaurants, two bars, a patisserie, lobby lounge, extensive banqueting facilities, swimming pool, health club and spa.
Throughout the painstakingly careful restoration, HBA designers were mindful of maintaining the highest degrees of period accuracy, requested by the Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Commission which oversees the city’s heritage buildings.
“That the Shanghai Club has its roots in the late Victorian era was never far from mind,” said Mr Carr, who was also co-lead designer. “Restoring or converting heritage property is the ultimate design challenge.”
Because of the Shanghai Club’s wide popularity, the photographic archive was fortunately immense, guiding restoration of nearly every element from its neo-classical interior and English colonial-inspired furniture to decorative lighting and antique Chinese accents and artifacts.
Connie Puar, HBA Principal and co-lead designer, said: “Restoration demands extreme attention to detail combined with flexibility. When we find a column where we did not expect it, we have to amend in a way that won’t compromise the design, which can be a challenge. Every item physically attached to the architecture-from ceiling molding and panels in walls, to the Sicilian marble columns and stained glass imported from England-is a restored or recreated heritage element.”
After removing decades of accrued material, HBA found the original interiors to be quite enduring. Paula O’Callaghan, Associate and senior FF&E designer, said: “A good amount of original surfaces like false moldings and drop ceilings were there, hidden underneath movie props. We also found the Shanghai Club’s fabled Long Bar painted in KFC’s palate.”
A New Era
The Waldorf Astoria Club also resurrects the Long Bar. At one time, patrons could gauge their relative social status by where they stood along it. A world-famous destination, the original Long Bar was lost during the Japanese occupation, but is now recreated from photographic records to original specifications, from dark timber paneling and white marble counter to rich, dark masculine furniture.
The most intentionally romantic space in the heritage building, The Grand Ballroom has achieved a level of refinement simply unimaginable in its early days, bathed in light by heritage-inspired crystal chandeliers while retaining its original warm, dark wood wainscoting, buff painted plaster walls and intricate ceiling and wall moldings. A remarkably scaled Oriental style rug covers the entire dining area.
HBA’s design team were called on to imagine a room that might have satisfied visiting royalty in 1911, and succeeded in making classical European style more romantic and refined than any original could have been, with oversized marble bathrooms, walk-in closets and dramatic fireplaces.
Decor is sumptuous with exquisite chandeliers, dark mahogany period furniture and Chinoise, antique reproductions.
“Ultimate design of the Waldorf Astoria Club delivers an unhurried feel of refined indulgence; as timeless today as it would have been a century ago, and able to stand next to the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue on equal footing,” added Mr Carr.
“In its rebirth as the Waldorf Astoria Club, Number 2 The Bund is again an address associated with high style, gracious civility like its cherished predecessor – a bastion of civility and style with the finest luxury experiences in Shanghai.”
Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.