A dozen international journalists based in Shanghai joined with Shanghai Daily readers to zoom in on all aspects of life in Changning District this week, from its heritage buildings to the bustling Hongqiao transport hub and life in an international community.
They were participating in the photography tour named “Changning in the Eyes of Foreign Journalists” organized by Shanghai Daily and Changning District Publicity Department on October 28. Participants toured around SKY SOHO, Changning Folk Arts Center and the residences of famous Hungarian-Slovak architect Laszlo Hudec who designed many landmarks buildings in Shanghai.
They also enjoyed a tea-making performance and experienced traditional Chinese wedding customs at Changning Folk Arts Center. Shanghai Daily columnist Michelle Qiao gave a presentation about the buildings, residences and life of Hudec at Hudec Memorial Hall.
The first stop of the tour was SKY SOHO located at Hongqiao Linkong Economic Park in the western part of Changning District. A modern business complex with a compelling mix of 35,000 square meters of office and retail space, SKY SOHO was designed by world-famous architect Zaha Hadid and is her first building in Shanghai.
“I am really impressed by its special design and just couldn’t stop pressing my camera shutter to capture more,” said correspondent Jose Alvarez Diaz from Agencia Efe, a Spanish international news agency. “The whole building is very spacious but doesn’t make me feel overwhelmed because all parts are connected in an elegant way.” With a surreal design concept, Zaha has established SKY SOHO as a dynamic and futuristic complex.
The building’s curvilinear appearance and dynamic spatial structure make it a striking and iconic new Shanghai landmark. “It looks so big and it is rare to see such a great project in downtown area. It really is a profound and impressive visual treat,” said Mia, a Shanghai Daily reader from France and currently an exchange student at Fudan University.
SKY SOHO consists of 12 buildings effortlessly connected by 16 bridges into a network of spaces. When viewed from certain angles, these structures, stacked up to 40 meters above the sunken garden below, resemble the smooth, towering walls of a natural canyon. “I’d like to work here if I got a job opportunity. The whole project looks so modern and is really suitable for innovative companies,” Mia added. SKY SOHO also exemplifies green, energy-saving construction and uses an air-filtering system to ventilate office rooms with fresh air. Its drinking water system meets the quality standard for astronauts.
After SKY SOHO, the tour visited Changning Folk Culture Center, a public venue for promoting traditional arts and culture. This first of Shanghai’s intangible cultural heritage museums covers more than 300 square meters and showcases 17 district-level intangible cultural heritage projects. The center also boasts a theater, dance room, rehearsal area, reading room and a teahouse. Participants were welcomed by a touch screen with 3D holographic projections and displays to help them gain a better understanding of each project.
A combination of sound and lighting effects has injected fresh energy into the displays of intangible cultural heritage projects. Visitors are also encouraged to experience the beauty of skills and arts at the center and to pass on traditional culture while having fun at the same time. The center has special exhibition rooms for traditional handcrafts such as Suzhou embroidery. It also holds classes on dance, folk music, painting and calligraphy.
“The lion dance they are performing looks so nice and the way they are dressed up is so cute,” said Macau People’s Media representative Melody Li after viewing the center’s dragon boat festival rehearsal. Various special events are held from time to time at the center to celebrate the Spring Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and other traditional Chinese holidays so visitors can experience the rich culture of Chinese civilization.
In addition, the participants also watched tea culture performances by the center’s professional tea art expert. He explained in detail the history of his black teas and demonstrated how to make, taste and serve a brew.
Last but not least, the visitors were invited to experience traditional Chinese wedding customs by dressing up like a bride, bridegroom, matchmaker and sedan bearers to imitate every step of the ceremony, from fetching the bride to the tea ceremony.
“I was really excited when I was inside the sedan chair, the experience was awesome,” said Marian Ramirez from Venezuela who played the role of bride.
“I really appreciated today’s activity because it makes me realize that I am in Shanghai instead of other places. When I visit the downtown area of this modern city, I can feel the spirit of its traditional cultures which make the city different from other cities.”
The last stop of the journey was Hudec Memorial Hall at 129 Panyu Road where the famous Hungarian-born architect László Ede Hudec lived 80 years ago. Hudec built a number of Shanghai’s most iconic buildings, including the Shanghai Grand Cinema and the Park Hotel at People’s Square, famously the city’s tallest structure until 1983.
Hudec Memorial Hall has been opened to the public for free in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of his birth. After three years of restoration, based largely on analysis of photographs of the once crumbling three-story residence, part of the villa has been transformed into a museum of the architect’s life.
Shanghai Daily columnist Michelle Qiao provided a detailed introduction to all exhibits inside the hall, including replicas of the family bible, college transcript from the Royal Joseph Technical University in Budapest, photos of Hudec as a soldier and prisoner of war, watercolors painted by Hudec and other items.
“The Hudec Memorial Hall is privately owned and operated by us to show citizens the glamour of Hudec’s works,” said Liu Suhua, the head of Hudec Memorial Hall. “We are dedicated to promoting Hudec culture and I hope to gain more support from government and society.”
Walking through the front door, one can see a Hudec bust, cast in bronze, eyeing up the visitors. Hudec and his wife’s living quarters are on the second floor where the walls and cabinets display a variety of objects, such as silk scarves and household items. The third floor used to be his children’s playground.
“This is such a beautiful house and I would happily live here forever if I could!” said Jackie Lee from Korea. “I have been in China for seven years and Shanghai is my favorite city. The most important reason for me to love Shanghai is that the city, especially Changning District, has lots of amazing buildings designed by fabulous architects such as Hudec.