Villa, factory, bomb shelter get new lives in revamp

Dec 27, 2018

Work began Wednesday in Nanqiao Town, Fengxian District, to open up an old town complex to the public.

The project covers 600,000 square meters in the central area of the town which dates back to late Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). The site is considered the historical and cultural heartland of Fengxian and south Shanghai.

The project includes one of the oldest garden villas in the city, a heritage soy sauce and fermented bean curd workshop, marketplace, streets, temples and a school. Work will take 10 years to complete.

Four robotic arms will build walls beside the garden villa to protect the historical structure, said Yuan Feng, a professor with Tongji University and the chief designer of the project. Robots build walls faster and more precisely than humans and can create complicated structures, he said.

Shen's Garden, a four-story Western-style private villa built in the 1920s with a lotus pond, pavilions, flower house and an ancestral temple will be open to public by 2020. Built by Shen Menglian (1874-1940), former director of the water police bureau that hunted salt traffickers in neighboring Jiangsu Province, the ground floor was used for banquets and parties while the upper floors were Shen's private quarters. The site once housed the local government.

After restoration, the site will become an urban planning exhibition center, art gallery, museum and other public spaces, said Yuan. The walls of the formerly closed compound will be removed to fully open the site to the public.

The Dingfeng Fermentation Food Co plant, the city's oldest remaining soy sauce factory, will be turned into a museum of heritage skills.

Dingfeng is a time-honored brand in Shanghai, making soy sauce and fermented bean curd in the traditional way. The main factory has been relocated, but some traditional workshops are still making sauce for nearby residents and the aroma permeates the whole town.

The plant was once the city's largest fermentation works, famous for soy sauce, fermented tofu, wine, vinegar and pickles. It will become a creative park with a museum about the company and its manufacturing procedures. Some workers will be invited to demonstrate their skills to visitors, said Zhou Weizhong, the official in charge.

Another project will convert an bomb shelter into an amusement center. The shelter was once a popular venue for simple events like air rifle shooting and billiards.

"We expect to bring back childhood memories for many middle-aged residents," Zhou added.


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