- Developer:Portman Holdings and Hengfu Development
- Architecture Design Director:Wei Li
- Design Team:Pietro Peyron, Sherry G, Qing Song, Feng Yu, Weiyi Fang, Kun Cheng
Text description provided by the architects. Having established our base in Shanghai in 2002 to work on the renovation of the Bund 18 building; Kokaistudios has since the outset worked as one of the leading firms working on adaptive re-use projects and advocating for the preservation and innovative reuse of Shanghai’s built heritage. Following the receipt of our second UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage award for the renovation of the Huaihai Lu 796 project in Shanghai Kokaistudios was approached by the client to conduct a feasibility study for the restoration and transformation of a traditional Shanghainese “shikumen lilong” Jianyeli (west part) into a luxury hospitality destination.
Originally built in the 1930s by French real estate company Foncière et Immobilière de Chine, the Jian Ye Li “shikumen” complex; located in the heart of the former French concession had evolved and been altered over the years but was essentially intact in its historical configuration and represented an incredible development opportunity.
Originally these “shikumen” buildings were designed for middle class families in Shanghai and as they lacked modern plumbing facilities they were often seen as products with little value to preserve and were either demolished or just the "shell" was maintained and they were converted it into commercial use.
After extensive research and study, Kokaistudios developed an architectural renovation strategy that maintained the architectural features of the “shikumen” lane houses while tastefully altering the internal layout and transforming them into spaces suitable for modern luxurious living where each original lane house unit was transformed into one luxurious guest suite.
Practicality is not a term that applies to this project as the shikumen architectural typology; characterized by their narrow and tall nature meaning that the minimum 110 sq.m suites are split over 2 floors via a step staircase with no elevator; does not lend itself naturally to conversion to hospitality use. However when the ultra-luxury Capella hotel brand entered into the project several years later minimal upgrades to the architecture of the buildings were required to meet their exacting standards and they created 55 luxury suites each occupying one of the lane-houses. Today the hotel occupies a unique position within Shanghai’s luxury hotel landscape and offer their guests a truly unique hospitality experience not available anywhere else in the world.
The project presented many challenges but armed with a solid experience gained both in Europe and in China of undertaking complex adaptive re-use project and working with an operating philosophy of driving for innovation through re-use and renovation we strove to overcome them and show the city and a wider audience in both China and the region the value of the existing built-heritage of Asian cities embodied by this unique 'shikumen lilong" complex while at the same time creating an timeless hospitality experience.
After our extensive historical restoration covering both the interiors and the facades of the buildings together with the internal courtyards the results however speak for themselves. Not only does the Capella Jian Ye Li occupy a unique space in Shanghai's luxury hotel landscape that offers its guests a one-of-a-kind experience, the project itself is having a strong and positive effect on the city of Shanghai with both other developers and government officials re-evaluating the potential and value that exists in heritage buildings and we foresee that this will not be the last project of its kind.