Restored to former glory

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 12:00am


Located at the foot of Nanjing Road on the Shanghai waterfront is the copper-roofed Fairmont Peace Hotel, an imposing brown brick edifice dating from 1929 that has been restored to its former glory.

Originally known as the Cathay Hotel, it underwent a name change following the Communist victory in 1949.

With its traditional clientele of foreigners and rich Chinese either fleeing the country or keeping a low profile due to the new social order, business all but disappeared.

By 1952 the hotel had been converted to new uses, with government offices and small shops occupying the once-elegant public spaces and suites.

The eastern wing, which faced the Huangpu River, reopened as a hotel in 1956 but by the 1980s and 1990s, the property, once hailed as the 'most modern and most beautiful hotel in the world', had fallen into a state of disrepair.

In 2007, both wings were taken over by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, a Canadian group specialising in managing historically significant properties.

The designers of the Cathay Hotel had drawn heavily on art deco, one of the favoured architectural styles of the 1920s and 1930s. Many features - such as a grand rotunda in the lobby of the west wing - were hidden by false ceilings, only to be rediscovered during the renovation.

The Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on The Bund is divided into two wings. Facing the Whampoa River, the Waldorf Astoria Club occupies the old Shanghai Club, which was built by the British as an old boys' club. In the 1920s and 1930s, it was the most exclusive club of its type in a city then known as the 'Paris of the East'.

Situated to the rear of the old Shanghai Club is the Waldorf Astoria Tower, a 252-room annex, connected to the club through a seamless concourse.

Les Suites Orient, Bund Shanghai, does not occupy a heritage building but you would never know it, as it is hard to distinguish the striking brown edifice from the heritage structures that line The Bund. Located on the site of the headquarters of Russell & Co, an investment company dating back to the 1860s, the building was rebuilt in the 1980s. Following a complete overhaul, it reopened as a hotel last year.