The relation of cities and rivers changes radically in the industrial era,especially in Shanghai. Shanghai is the cradle of China’s industrialization.The first railroads, factories, and power plants were built here. The modern production methods would change the face of the city. For example, Shanghai’s Yangpu district is located on the northeast side of the Huangpu River. The southern part of the district is located just four kilometers downstream from the Bund. After the treaty of 1843, one sixth of Yangpu was selected to become an international settlement. In the following years, factories, shipyards and warehouses rose up along Yangshupu Road, in particular, the Textile Mill, the Cotton Mill, the Paper Making Factory, the Shipbuilding facilities, the Water Plant, and the Yangpu Power Plant. It is not a coincidence that many of those industrial facilities were erected at the waterfront. Many early industries, like the cotton, textile, and paper industry, require large amounts of water for their production. For example, power plants depend on a supply of large quantities of coal, which is transported via waterways by ship.
The industrialization devastated the relation between rivers and cities all around the globe, as the population of cities exploded, resulting in more urban wastes, while more and more factories polluted the waterways. The most notorious example in this regard is the Great Stink of London in 1858 when the River Thames turned into a stinking sewer which caused outbreaks of cholera and killed hundreds of people. The disaster was the starting point of London’s modern sewage system. In the process of urban industrial development, London explored a road to solve the problem of pollution. The pollution of rivers through industries remains a large problem in cities around the world, especially for developing countries.
However, the situation has changed for cities like Shanghai that entereda post-industrial phase, which means that the inner city areas have been largely de-industrialized. For instance, the Yangpu District is undergoing a transformation from an intensive industrial base towards an innovation and business demonstration hub. Still, there are 33 protected historical buildings in the district, with a concentration of industrial structures along the Huangpu River. The concentration of protected industrial buildings is a valuable resource and an opportunity for the renewal of the riverfront. This heritage has the potential of preserving and showcasing the industrial age and the spirit of Shanghai. This spirit, the ethos of Shanghai, is the interpretation of Haipai culture. The ethos of Shanghai is not only manifested in the historic skyline of the Bund, but also in the abandoned industrial buildings that line the river banks until today. They are waiting to be integrated into the new riverfront development. Many proposals for their reutilization have been developed in the past years, but most were rejected. We believe the reason is that they were conceptualized as single plots and without the consideration or full understanding of their context, which is the changing role of the Huangpu River.