Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Legendary Peace Hotel embraces change via renovations

THE famous Peace Hotel here is closed this month to make way for what's been dubbed the “most extensive renovation” in its 101-year history.

The hotel, comprising North and South blocks that face each other in East Nanjing Road, is the landmark on the Bund where tourists can see the shadow of old Shanghai of the early 20th century.

Weeks before the closure, the hotel management, Jin Jiang International Management Corp, loosened its no-photography rule and opened both blocks for public viewing.

Tourists and locals grabbed the opportunity to take videos and photos of the hotel lobby, the “world-famous” jazz bar, restaurants and reception halls.

While the South block is closed for room reservations, the North block remains open on a limited basis. Tenants like restaurants, banks and shops will continue to open until the project commences.

Veteran photographer Zhang Qingyun, who took pictures of the decorative ceiling and archway at the North block's lobby, said he wanted to keep a piece of history.

“This hotel is quite classic and has about 80 years of history. I like its elegant architecture,” he said.

Hotel management student Jin Zhengyi, who visited the hotel for the first time with her university classmates, said: “We came here to see how it looks, so we can compare once it has been renovated.”

According to news reports, the hotel would be closed for about one-and-a-half years and the renovation cost would be at least 400mil yuan (RM178.8mil).

“If our hotel does not undergo renovations, we would be losing out to our competitors,” hotel public relations manager Ma Yongzhang told Chinese broadcaster CCTV4 during an interview.

“We will retain the historical features such as the copper chandelier, the Lalique glasswork and the Dragon and Phoenix Restaurant that has existed since the days of Cathay Hotel.”

Reports said the hotel's original architecture would be preserved as it is a heritage building.

With a granite exterior and green copper roof, the 12-storey Gothic-style North block was built in 1929 as the Sassoon Mansion by British businessman Victor Sassoon.

It was later called Cathay Hotel, and renamed Peace Hotel in 1956.

The six-storey classical South block used to be Palace Hotel which began operations in 1906. Both blocks have received famous leaders and celebrities like actor Charlie Chaplin, British playwright Noel Coward, late Chinese premier Zhou Enlai, former US president Bill Clinton and boxer Muhammad Ali.

Source : STAR
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