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The former residence of Lin Fengmian (1900-1991) on Nanchang Road, Shanghai, was next door to a sex-toy store that was shut down in late February for operating without a license. Lin was a pioneering modern artist renowned for his paintings and aesthetic theories. As ownership of old buildings in Shanghai has been transferred, the former residences of some famous people have fallen into company they could not have imagined. [Photo / China Daily]
The former residence of Lin Fengmian (1900-1991), the pioneering modern artist renowned for his paintings and aesthetic theories, was even less fortunate. Next to Lin's former residence at Nanchang Road, a sex-toy store had been operating for months until it was shut down in late February for operating without a license.
"I have nothing against a sex-toy store, but I don't think there is a reason for it to be running beside a conservation, the two places just do not fit," said Chen Junde, a 25-year-old man who works in a nearby bookstore.
Such buildings are protected under conservation laws but those in their surroundings and their usage are not similarly regulated.
As ownership of old buildings in Shanghai has been transferred under various circumstances, some residences of celebrities have been transformed into something that is perhaps unimaginable to the former owners.
A former house of writer Zhang Ailing in Jing'an district was turned into a class for Shanghai dialect learning, as the community committee members said that many newcomers to the city have a "Shanghai complex" that emerges when they read Zhang's novels set during the time when the city was under Japanese occupation.
The former residence of Yao Yulan, the fourth mistress of Du Yuesheng (1888-1951), himself the "godfather" of old Shanghai who amassed great power and wealth through gambling operations and opium sales, has morphed into a restaurant featuring Shanghai cuisine.
The conservation and protection of buildings of the past require the cooperation of various parties, said Chen Fei, an engineer with the National Research Center of Historic Cities.
Buildings with rich cultural heritage, aesthetic merit and historical value should be protected or renovated to fit today's needs, depending on reasonable planning that balances conservation and development, Chen said. But such protection or development may be subjected to many factors including ownership, cost, expropriation of land and planning philosophies.
"The compound of Xintiandi actually sets a good example, as various departments work together to make it both modern and original with little change to the original building ," Chen said
The Xintiandi area highlights local Shanghai-style residential buildings that have been transformed into high-end hotels, shopping malls and restaurants.
Conservation in various areas in Shanghai also require specific planning methods to fix current problems.
Some residences might need to improve their quality with better amenities and larger living spaces, while others need to balance old and new buildings to cater to current commercial needs, Chen said.