Not everyone involved with Shanghai's old homes sees them as money-making opportunities. Some people are ardently opposed to what they regard as the over-gentrification of European-style homes, worrying they will become merely facades for modern-day interiors. The Shanghai Historic House Association is the flag-bearer for preservation, and its members are keen to preserve, in situ, homes that have character and significance. Members Tina Kanagaratnam and Patrick Cranley certainly stick to those principles, living in a house that has barely changed since it was built in the 1940s. The French Concession building is one of Shanghai's quirkiest; a home designed, apparently, to resemble the shape of a piano. With a fertile imagination, the right angle and a squint, it is just about possible to see the French architects' vision. The current occupants have made every effort to keep the place as it was - including keeping the stained-glass windows, which were fashionable at the time, the sweeping wooden staircase and even the period-piece window frames. The couple have accentuated the other-era feel by installing their own collection of antiques and bric-a-brac. The three-storey house, with an ample garden, was originally constructed by a wealthy Chinese merchant when the art-deco style of architecture was all the rage; his widow, now in her 90s, still lives on the upper floors. Every year, the association organises an open day, when the public can come and tour houses like this: properties where time has stood still, or at least inched forward, with every structural change or modernisation completed only after careful consideration. 'Some people buy these places then rip out the interiors and put in things that are like a hotel,' says Kanagaratnam. 'When you step inside, it is all modern. I don't understand why you would do that. Why not just build a modern house? 'I think there has to be progress but these buildings constitute the texture of the city. If it was all skyscrapers, it would be really boring. I think people are beginning to appreciate them more.' It is a small association with a loud voice, using every opportunity to lobby authorities for the preservation of key buildings. Cranley and Kanagaratnam, long-term Shanghai residents who speak fluent Putonghua, are convinced making a noise will help avert the needless destruction of buildings that represent a key part of the city's past. After all, they are the only features that distinguish Shanghai from other mainland cities, which all have pretty much the same portfolio of skyscrapers, new hotels and flash apartment blocks. 'The more people know about [the old homes], the more they will become attached to them,' says Cranley.