Integrating heritage assets in large commercial complexes: de-contextualization and re-signification of memory in Shanghai

Harry den Hartog, Plácido González Martínez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Since early this century, multiple large-scale commercial projects in Shanghai and other Chinese cities incorporate heritage assets for the creation of new identities after de-contextualisation trough demolition of complete city blocks. This tabula rasa approach resulted in a discontinuity of the meaning and use that local communities gave to these heritage buildings and a re-appropriation by new users in a context of consumerism. This paper studies two cases in Shanghai city center: Jing An Kerry Centre and Greenland Bund Centre, where heritage buildings related to the memories of Communism, trading societies and Christianity are incorporated into high-density high-end commercial redevelopment. As we argue, the study of heritage conservation methods and urban design approaches reveals profound discontinuities in the position and meaning of heritage assets, which respond to important political and economic performance requirements. This paper puts forward two main arguments. Firstly, that the choice of heritage conservation methods and design approaches aligns with the new official narrative of the desired image of Shanghai as a prosperous global city rooted in Communism. Secondly, that the de-contextualisation of heritage assets within a new corporate urban context motivates specific heritage-related landscape, urban and architectural design responses, that contribute to their re-contextualisation in a new sanitized urban environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102601
Number of pages11
JournalHabitat International
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

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  • Beautification
  • City branding
  • Heritage conservation
  • Narratives
  • Re-signification
  • Tabula rasa
  • Urban redevelopment

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