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June 22, 2024

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Guard rails and fencing invoke Shanghai’s artistic and cultural character

IN Shanghai, even the simplest structures tell a story. Just take a look at guard rails and unique fencing around the city.

Whether lining the historic Bund or encircling ancient villas, these structures are more than mere barriers. They are symbols of the city’s past and present.

The Bund is adorned with round flower boxes that add an ornamental touch of iconic landmarks such as the Oriental TV Pearl Tower, Shanghai Tower and Jin Mao Tower.

During the Shanghai Flower Show in April, the railings along the West Bund waterfront in Xuhui District were transformed into a 1.3-kilometer “flower fence,” adorned with pots of roses and crabapple blossoms in pink, red and orange.

In the Hengshan-Fuxing Road Historical Reservation Zone, bamboo fences surround many of the area’s historical villas. The use of bamboo, a material deeply rooted in Chinese culture, emphasizes environmental harmony.

The fences, known locally as qiang liba (戗篱笆), are designed to prevent theft and reinforce the walls of old houses, a practice dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). They preserve the historical essence of the area while offering privacy and protection.

Photographer King Ying from Hong Kong captures the nostalgic beauty of these bamboo fences. She has posted photos on her account on the lifestyle platform Red, garnering hundreds of comments.

“Walking past these bamboo-woven fences, one can’t help but feel a sense of time travel,” she told Shanghai Daily.

“They add a unique charm to the grand old houses, making you feel like you’re in another era.”

Yangpu District, once the industrial heart of Shanghai, retains its historical character through the design of its riverside fences.

Visitors walking along Huangpu River in Yangpu may notice the “rusty” look of guard rails, giving an industrial vibe that complements the surrounding architecture.

Sun Zhiwei, a member of the design team for the riverside fences, said achieving this vintage look required applying five layers of paint to each rail.

“Using a single layer felt fake, while multiple layers look like real rust on metal, but the fencing is actually constructed of timber,” Sun explained.

Qian Liang, deputy Party secretary of Shanghai Yangpu Riverside Investment and Development Co, said that the riverside section near the former Shanghai Shipyard uses Canadian maple for the railings.

This timber, historically used in shipbuilding at Shanghai Shipyard, is waterproof and moisture-resistant. It undergoes regular maintenance, Qian told Shanghai Daily.

“It is really amazing,” said Malik Zafar, a journalist from Pakistan who was touring the riverside in Yangpu.

“The material, the wood they used, is really impressive and very strong.”

The riverside areas of Suzhou Creek also feature well-designed railings that prioritize both comfort and safety.

The fences’ sloped design allows people to lean into the scenery without safety concerns. They also prevent people from sitting on them.

The history of Shanghai’s most famous “fence” dates back about half a century.

The “Lovers’ Wall,” a famous romantic spot on the Bund, was originally constructed as a flood barrier. In the 1970s and 1980s, its ambience and views were a magnet for young couples to meet and exchange sweet nothings.

Shanghai has about 700 kilometers of road dividers and rails and fences alongside roads and waterways, according to the city’s transport commission.

The city government recently solicited public suggestions on the design of fences in the middle of roads, with an eye toward enhancing their esthetics and functionality.

Some local high-school students have been among the contributors.

Dong Siqi, a high-school student, proposed a design using anti-corrosive timber, highlighting its environmental benefits and natural appeal.

“Wooden fences give a sense of warmth and are more in tune with nature,” Dong said.

Another student Mao Chenyue incorporated elements of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower into her design, using blue and white colors.

“This design helps visitors immediately recognize the unique characteristics of Shanghai,” she noted.

Shanghai’s approach to designing guard rails and fencing reflects a broader urban-planning philosophy that focuses on cultural heritage and quality of life in the city, said an official with the transport commission.

Whether it’s the floral artistry of the Bund or the ergonomic design of riverside barriers, each element plays a role in making Shanghai’s urban landscape unique and engaging, he added.


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