From Architectural Record writer Clifford Pearson: "Fast-disappearing, Shanghai’s nong tang (lane houses) combine European construction with Chinese notions of tightly packed residential life. From the street, these early-20th-century buildings present gabled facades — respectable and a bit staid. But once you walk through the door to the lane running between the houses, you encounter a messy world of clothes hanging out to dry, shutters flung open, people gossiping, and kids running around. "Neri & Hu Design and Research Office (NHDRO) tried to capture the spirit of a nong tang in its design of the Waterhouse at South Bund, a trio of industrial buildings from the early 1930s converted into a 19-room boutique hotel. Blending old and new, Western and local, the firm turned a nong tang on end. So instead of a series of public-blurring-into-private spaces that unfolds as you walk down an alley, the hotel reveals itself through a number of vertical cuts offering views down and up from guest rooms into public spaces (and vice versa).
"NHDRO exposed other things, too. Instead of refinishing the building’s aging facades and interior surfaces, the firm flaunted decay as a prominent theme. 'We wanted to demonstrate a new way of preserving things,' explains Neri. 'You don’t have to clean it all up.' So they kept the ghosted outlines of floor slabs removed to create the tall lobby space and didn’t touch a small cluster of foam-green tiles mounted in the 1950s and still clinging to one wall of the lobby." Full article with image gallery here. (Photo credit: Derryck Menere.)