What was once a three-story Japanese Army headquarters building from the 1930’s in the Cool Docks development on the South Bund District of Shanghai, China, has been renovated into a four-story, 19-room boutique hotel. Completed in May 2010, the Waterhouse at South Bund was designed by Neri & Hu Design and Research Office (NHDRO). Shanghai designers Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu founded NHDRO, which has received internal and domestic awards for their designs in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, England, Canada, Spain, and the Netherlands.
The exterior of the Waterhouse at South Bund has both an industrial and natural feel. According to NHDRO “the architectural concept behind the renovation rests on a clear contrast of what is old and new.” The original concrete has been restored while the new fourth-story addition was built using Cor-TenTM weathering steel, reflecting the industrial past of the area. The new addition has a roof terrace that provides views of the Huangpu River, which the hotel fronts, and the Pudong (the Shanghai equivalent of Wall Street) skyline.
The courtyard located within the Waterhouse is surrounded by white plaster adobe-style walls. Like the exterior, the courtyard is minimalistic – flat, with the exception of single unfinished wood shutters on some of the windows. According to NHDRO, “the public spaces allow one to peek into private rooms while the private spaces invite one to look out at the public arenas, such as the large vertical room window above the reception desk and corridor windows overlooking the dining room. These visual connections of unexpected spaces not only bring an element of surprise, but also force the hotel guests to confront the local Shanghai urban conditions where visual corridors and adjacencies in tight nong-tang’s define the spatial flavor of the city.” (Nong-tangs are the alleyways characteristic of old Shanghai.)
Inside the boutique hotel, the atmosphere is crisp, clean, and factory-like. Similar to the exterior, stripped concrete and brick have been restored. Guest rooms have light-colored hardwood flooring and a mixture of exposed concrete and brick walls and white plaster walls to match the courtyard. Furniture is stylish Scandinavian by Danish designers: Arne Jacobsen, known for Danish Modern; Finn Juhl, known for functionalism; and Hans Wegner, known for his innovativeness. Artwork is by Antonio Cittero of Milan, Italy.
Within the hotel there are two restaurants: Table No.1 and The Lobby. Table No.1 is a new European casual restaurant with communal dining tables. The Lobby is a cocktail and snack lounge. On the rooftop terrace is a cocktail bar aptly named The Roof. Appetizers are available and guests can take in views of the river.
Adjacent to the hotel is the Event Warehouse, an open multipurpose room meant to show the area’s history of industry. Various types of events are held, from product launches to corporate and sporting events, fashion shows, concerts, art exhibitions, and weddings.
An alumni of The Ohio State University, Ms. D'Errico obtained a degree in travel writing through a study program that she created herself. For two years Ms. D'Errico served as a staff writer for The Animal Insider, a quarterly publication based in Columbus, Ohio, and has also worked as a review scout for the Columbus division of Yelp.com. Now she is trying her hand at covering ecologically responsible and sustainable architecture for Buildipedia.com.