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AS Shanghai pretties up for World Expo 2010, the Bund and Huangpu riverfront are witnessing spectacular and innovative developments. Nancy Zhang takes a look at White Magnolia Plaza, the Peninsula Hotel and Oriental Fisherman's Wharf As the Beijing Olympics fades into memory, the World Expo is moving into the spotlight. While the World Expo 2010 structures are awe-inspiring, the rest of the city is also swept up in a blizzard of construction for its six months of intense international attention.

As well as improved infrastructure in airports and railway stations and an awe-inspiring increase in Metro lines, a glittering array of commercial office-retail-hotel developments is going up.

With the Expo site hugging both banks, the Huangpu riverfront has become the major focus of redevelopment.

Since Shanghai's "mother river" winds through the heart of its history ?? through foreign settlements to the industrial era to futuristic Pudong ?? current developments also look to the past and the future. Here are three major riverfront projects.

Fisherman's Wharf

Further north in Yangpu District, a major new leisure and entertainment development is underway.

Oriental Fisherman's Wharf covers 38,000 square meters and is meant to showcase the "coming out" of the Yangpu District. Its location on the previously grim industrial waterfront is significant - it marks Shanghai's move into the post-industrial period.

Comprised of shops and restaurants going all the way down to the waterfront with extensive piers and parks, the development reverses a tradition of walling off the river from residents.

According to Project Manager Bill Doerge of American architects Perkins + Will, this move follows in the footsteps of cities, such as Chicago, that reclaimed the waterfront as high-value places for living and leisure when industry moved elsewhere.

Indeed, the Oriental Fisherman's Wharf takes its name from the Fisherman's Wharf of San Francisco. But instead of restoring a historic fishing area, Shanghai's version pays tribute to a vanished fishing industry with "new forms and a new spirit," says Doerge.

The tower and lower structures are shaped in the smooth and shiny curves of a silver-skinned fish. An old industrial warehouse has also been saved and will be converted into a retail space for water-facing restaurants.

But according to Doerge, the larger vision of the project is to create the same sense of commerce and public activity at the water's edge as it once was.

Thus the project is also a catalyst for the development of the Yangpu area whose fortunes had declined with the decline of river industries.

Next to the Fisherman's Wharf site are two other plots marked out for future development to further rejuvenate the area, though details are scant. Peninsula Hotel

The historic Bund has received a massive, and much needed, facelift in preparation for the Shanghai World Expo. In typical Shanghai style, this work enhances historic landmarks with a view to updating them for luxurious new uses.

The Waitanyuan project, for example, is renovating an area of protected historic houses between the Huangpu River and the Suzhou Creek into upscale galleries, restaurants and boutiques.

Luxury hotels are an indispensable presence on the Bund, having witnessed many of its historically important moments.

In another twist of history, as the iconic Peace Hotel undergoes renovation, the company that operated its south building during the roaring 1920s and 1930s is making a comeback further along the Bund.

The opening of the new Peninsula Hotel late this year will mark the return of one of Asia's oldest hotel operators to Shanghai.

Hong Kong Shanghai Hotels Ltd (HSH) was a distinguished contributor to the glamor of the city between the two world wars with a portfolio that included the Palace Hotel and Astor House Hotel on the Bund.

After an absence of 60 years, HSH is back with a new, ultra-luxurious hotel that pays substantial homage to the company's history in the city.

The new Peninsula Hotel, the ninth addition to the international chain, will be situated at No. 32 on the Bund, on the grounds that once belonged to the old British Consulate. Its style will be "Art Deco meets technology" in keeping with its historic neighbors while offering state-of-the-art facilities.

The hotel's New York-based architect, Davide Beer, and Parisian interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon of PYR envision a streamlined modern interpretation of Art Deco motifs punctuated by curved glass and chrome.

In tones of cerulean blue and ivory, the interior design also incorporates materials used in 1920s Shanghai, such as rich mahogany and ebony.

Chinese elements such as exotic woods and black lacquer thread through each of the 235 rooms, many of which will have riverside views.

Tributes to Shanghai's history continue with a nautical-themed bar featuring extensive collections of maritime memorabilia, and a Chinese restaurant modeled on the private home of a 1930s Shanghai aristocrat.

White Magnolia Plaza

North of the historic Bund promenade, a gleaming new office, retail and infrastructure development is rising. Inland from the newly opened Shanghai International Cruise Terminal will be White Magnolia Plaza. Comprised of three towers and a mixed-use center, it links disembarking passengers from the cruise terminal to trains to downtown Shanghai.

The project, which covers 57,000 square meters, was commissioned to be a focus for the emerging North Bund area.

Lower-level structures are to be used for retail and entertainment, while towers are reserved for offices and hotels.

It makes for a development that's active throughout the day.

The towers incorporate innovative, curved surfaces and green features that its designer, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), describes as "a powerful new direction in high-rise architecture."

Having also designed the Jin Mao Tower, SOM is familiar with the problem of Shanghai's saturated skyline. To mitigate this, White Magnolia Plaza has borrowed aerospace software to create curved aerodynamic forms for the outer facade of the 320-meter-high towers.

According to Ross Wimer, partner at SOM, this allows the building to blend into its surroundings as "the complex curved surfaces give it a unique form more frequently seen in nature than the built world."

In tribute to the current emphasis on environmental consciousness, the development also has a host of green features.

Substantial thermal storage systems take pressure off city electric grids, gray water reclamation systems treat and reuse water from showers and lavatories, and a green roof helps reduce the urban "heat island effect."

It will be completed after the World Expo.


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