As far as demolition, construction, and restoration projects go, China tends to top the list for sad and wasteful. Adam Minter over at Shanghai Scrap has been chronicling yet another victim in Shanghai’s ever continuing demolition of its history. This time it’s a 135-year-old Carmelite Convent in Xujiahui. But the bizarre twist here is that instead of high rises or shopping complexes, they’ve instead replaced the convent with… the convent, only one fifth smaller.
From Shanghai Scrap:
The building wasn’t anything special – except for the fact that it was one of the city’s oldest structures, foreign or Chinese. But what made this demolition so egregious, so patently ridiculous, were the stated intentions of the (re) developers to build a 20% smaller replica of the convent just a few meters south of the original one. . .This struck me as stupid and wasteful, but I’ve been here long enough to know that it should also strike me as one more thing: typical. That is, the Carmelite Convent is not the only historic structure in Shanghai to be demolished in favor of a replica that – for whatever reason – is more in the interests of the developer. In fact, in the case of some dilapidated slum dwellings, this might often be a good thing.
See the post for before and after pictures. The whole thing is baffling, and according to a commenter on his site, actually illegal.
The convent was a protected historical landmark which the Xuhui District government tried hard to protect. But apparently when developers have their minds set on shrinking things, there’s little you can do to stop them. As Minter concludes:
In any event, I’m not sure what conclusions that I or my readers should draw from this sorry episode in historical non-preservation except that – all things considered – Shanghai’s real estate developers must both be making lots of money – after all, they can afford to build replica Carmelite convents in the midsts of their high-rise residential developments – and that Shanghai’s real estate developers must not be making very much money – after all, they clearly can’t afford to buff up a 130-year-old spartan-like convent in the midst of a real estate development in a historic neighborhood.