As is often the case, the historic 1900s neighborhood of Shikumen in Shanghai, China was to be razed for new development, until an effort succeeded in convincing city leaders that a brighter future lay in revitalizing the culture that was already there.
Today, Xintiandi is a $170 million remix of century old apartment blocks and courtyards into a contemporary, car-free, shopping, eating and entertainment district, and the heart of Shanghai’s Puxi district, one of its most important commercial, cultural, and residential centers.
The buildings consist of restored traditional shikumen (“stone gate”) houses on narrow alleys, and the cosmopolitan mix of cafes and restaurants feature outdoor dining areas, which essentially characterizes the district as an international outdoor dining scene. Nightlife is vibrant on both weekdays and weekends, with a romantic vibe targeting visitors, especially from Hong Kong.
The clubs, boutiques and restaurants may be a little pretentious (Jackie Chan is an owner of one of the venues, and the country’s top designers participated in the interiors), but the important precedent here is that the walkable, human-scaled fabric and its history was not only preserved, but celebrated.
The reviews are encouraging from old and new alike…
“It’s beautiful. It’s not like Shanghai was; nothing can be like that again. This is new, but it keeps the flavor of old Shanghai,” an old man in his late 70s;
“Sometimes I just sit here and watch all the people go by. That’s the real beauty of Xintiandi. You see people, all kinds of people, from all over the world, all enjoying themselves.”, restaurant owner in Xiantiandi.