The lobby space showcasing the contrasts between old and new, public and private (image: © The Waterhouse at South Bund)
The traditional Shanghai nong-tang or “lane-house” receives a 21st-century update in the form of a hotel by Neri&Hu Design and Research Office (NHDRO): The Waterhouse at South Bund. The traditional houses are known for blurring the public and private realms and this is translated into the hotel through slim apertures that create unexpected visual connections between the private rooms and the public lobby. Of the 19 rooms within this boutique hotel, only nine offer views of the Bund. The remaining ten rooms all face inwards, offering strategic views into the bar, dining or entrance areas. By creating introspective views, the hotel interiorises the exterior urban condition native to Shanghai – the pockets of activity characteristic to the narrow nong-tang lanes are now transformed into voyeuristic glimpses of movement; fleetingly seen in a room or bathroom from the lobby.
The lobby itself is an interesting duality – the raw, exposed concrete against the soft, luxurious interior furnishings juxtaposes the old and the new and is further emphasised through the use of both contemporary and antique objects to populate the space. NHDRO was careful to restore the original concrete in the lobby, restricting its architectural interventions to the varied apertures between spaces and highlights of Corten steel to underline the industrial heritage of the site. The rawness of the lobby space makes it feel as though it is a transition space from interior to exterior. The ephemeral views that break the divide between public and private spaces, create an innately Shanghainese experience that draws on the communal culture of inhabiting small spaces and appropriating the public space of the street. The palimpsest of both the residential vocabulary of the nong-tang and the materiality of the site’s industrial legacy create an architecture that follows NHDRO’s philosophy, “imprint of heritage, modern reinterpretation”.
The Waterhouse at South Bund opens on 23 July
Raw concrete and Corten steel illustrate the industrial heritage of the site (image: © The Waterhouse at South Bund)
Varying apertures on the far wall of the restaurant create limited views into private rooms (image: © The Waterhouse at South Bund)