(Text by Reporter Xing Beilin/Photograph by Reporter Yu Ruwen) Lintels and windowsills of the western-style building decorated by fine carvings, windows of colorful cathedral glass, and the looming eave in the lush trees… This three-storey western-style house, located in No.186 of Shaanxi Road (N), catches every passenger's eyes, which, known as one of the "most elegant house in Shanghai", used to be the private house of Rong Zongjing, one of the first-generation industrialists in China. After 6-year elaborate renovation, Rong’s Mansion will lift its mysterious veil for the first time as “Heritage Architecture in Shanghai” and be opened for free to the public from October 17 to November 12.
Restore its appearance a century ago
The history of Rong’s Mansion can be traced back to the early 20th century, when the famous family of Rong Zongjing lived here. In 2004, Rong’s Mansion was recognized as the cultural heritage of Jing’an District; in 2005, it won the title of “Heritage Architecture in Shanghai”; and in 2014, it was listed as the Shanghai Municipal Protected Historic Site.
Prior to the official opening of Rong’s Mansion, the reporter visited there in advance. At the site, the reporter found that the old house was elaborately renovated from its façade to the internal structure. Different from the renovation of other protected historical buildings, the renovation of Rong’s Mansion was undertaken by the Italian fashion brand Prada, which was started officially in 2011. To preserve fully the original appearance of the old house, this renovation takes the approach of remediation of breakages with necessary structural reinforcement and functional improvement as well.
The craftsmen team formed by selected Italian and Chinese experts undertook the protection work of ornaments and structures of the house, including gypsum decoration, wood paneling, cathedral glass and a variety of decorative tiles. As the layout of Rong’s Mansion has been partially changed by previous users of the house, designers and craftsmen tried to restore its original appearance as much as possible and achieve the effect of “being still an old house even after modern renovation” by first referring carefully to the original drawings and employing the craftsmanship and installation techniques in close intimacy with traditional ones as well as the same building materials as those used for this house a century ago. At last, this century-old house built in 1910 takes on its original look again.
Citizens can visit via appointment
The reporter learned that, since October 17, the newly renovated Prada Rong’s Mansion will be opened to the public free of charge via appointment. Meanwhile, an exhibition of Prada’s architectural exploration will be held here. Citizens interested can make online appointment through WeChat Official Accounts “Shanghai Jing’an District” and “Prada”. With appointment, citizens can visit every room of Rong’s Mansion to appreciate the charm of this century-old historic architecture and learn stories behind renovation through related historic architecture renovation exhibition.
Also, the reporter has learnt that Prada has long been engaged in the protection work of historic and cultural heritage worldwide, including part of the 19th century classical Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan and the Palazzo Ca’Cornerdella Regina transformed into an art space, and accumulated rich experience. The 6-year renovation project of Prada Rong’s Mansion is more an interesting dialogue and exchange of Chinese and western culture than an architectural remediation and restoration. In the future, this oriental historic house renovated through the participation of western fashion brand will be the special site for a wide range of activities held in China, where more moments of the collision and fusion between fashion and history will be presented.