|A bridge among many|
At one end of the city are a few underused factory buildings constructed some time after 1949. They all seem to have been based on a standrd construction method. I saw similar details at the Shanghai Expo where the former industrial site of Pudong was given over to adaptive reuse.
We were told that a Hongkong businessman was running a kind of architectural salvage and reuse operation in these buildings. It's certainly positive that some of the building elements were appreciated and perhaps some of the salvaged pieces might go into restoring designated buildings, but the bulk of the business likely served to act as decoration in new construction.
|Screens awaiting new breezeways|
|Stone column bases|
|Upcyclable building materials|
|Familiar timber framing elements|
I was impressed by just how much salvage had been amassed in one place that still felt empty. The workmen were getting ready to leave for the day so I wasn't interrupting their workflow and they seemed happy to know that a foreigner was interested in their work.
|The most common style Chinese tablesaw|
|Beam in transition|
|The most common style of worksite bench|
|New wood with witness marks|
|Foreign artists and workspace|
|Clerestory windows of former arsenal|
My wife and I ended up spending the night in one of the artist residences. I learned from the director about the location's history and his pessimist attitude to the program's long term viability. It's seldom that one receives a straightforward, logical answer in the Middle Kingdom. The concern is that the Shanghai municipality wants to protect its water supply by moving heavy industry away from waterway areas, which is completely understandable as it applies to foundries and metal plating factories, less so to sewing machines.
|Every campus must have its perimeter wall|
|The Jinze Art Center main gate|
One unexpected discovery was an art school located centrally. I'm stil not clear as to all that is taught therein; the gate was closed during both times that we passed by.
|Stone posts lying next to brick pile in a garden|
|Stacks of used rooftiles|
|Warehoused cut stone|
|Cut stone stacked between empty industrial buildings|
Walking deeper into Jinze and away from the canal sides, I began to discover that the whole area was dotted with piles of architectural elements in odd corners in surprisingly large amounts.
|Xu Family Hall, protected status in 2010, left hand side plaque; street sign indicating 12 residences|
|Xu Family Hall plaque,(right side) updated protected status 2017|
One complex in particular afforded many intriguing clues as to its erstwhile splendor and the degree of laborious details that were lavished upon it. Two plaques apparently issued by two different legal entities hint at the importance of this structure. Although it appeared that some of the residents were no longer present, it's impossible to confirm how many still called this a home.
|Interior courtyard looking outwards|
|Stone carving details|
The layout is a sequence of courtyards with doorways at each threshold, presumably indicating degrees of transition from the public to the private and various household functions. The
|Purlins and carved roof beams|
|Dougong motif in relief (斗拱)|
|Portico connecting courtyards|
|2nd floor apartment|
There are no clear indications that preservation measures are yet underway on these or any of the other plaqued 'protected' buildings. Keeping residents in these apartments until formalized preservation begins might be a low cost form of security. Much of the damage due to conversion and utility upgrades occurred decades ago.
|vegetables amid the rubble|
I did see one example of a vain attempt to encase a building with scaffolding that is sadly too far gone to save. The scaffolding now seems to act as a barrier to protect residents and other houses when it finally does collapse.
|Signage seemingly only used in Jinze|
|"This is a dangerous house; pedestrians attend to safety; no entry, no loitering/ squatting (?)"|
|dereliction porn centerfold|
|before the fall|
Many buildings didn't even merit this sign. Lack of ownership or title leaves so many salvageable houses to succumb to demolition by neglect. Perversely, many locals might simply regard these old structures as resources to be mined for their materials. It's a sad tangle of neglect, poverty, and complacency as best as I can fathom.
|Ming style Cabinetry|
|Cabinets inside the porn dereliction building|
Amazingly these derelict structures are often still full of stunning pieces of furniture. Even one building with a partial roof was being used as a warehouse for packaging materials.
|abandoned housewares in unsafe house|
|Traditional wooden door hinges|
As it happens so often old things are left outside or abandoned. There is an emphasis on newness and few Chinese know how to evaluate high quality furniture or preindustrial architecture. Even fewer know how to repair it. I was often able to photographed these items by extending my arm through unglazed window openings so exposed these areas are to the elements.
|Coopered chamber pot|
|yoke and rack table|
|discarded handmade cabinet near trash bins|
|Splayed leg table|
And in other places handmade furniture is left outdoors, almost as to highlight the contempt for such reminders of the past. My plan is to return in a year, and yearly thereafter to witness how Shanghai manages the challenges of preserving and renovating Jinze to respect the past while acknowledging the needs of the present future residents. I am cautiously hopeful since I see the greatest amount of civic pride amongst Shanghai denizens. The most positive changes in the PRC often enter in through Shanghai.
|a bridge and commemorative plaque|