In the French Concession area, and right across the street from our new apartment, lies a hip little place called Tianzifang–Shanghai’s “Art Street”. It’s also known as Taikanglu, for the road that runs past it, or as The New York Times refers to it, Lane 248. Deep into the narrow alleyways, unseen from the streets, Tianzifang is a labyrinth of neatness, unlike anything else in China.
The neighborhood originated in the ’30s with distinct fusion East-West-style architecture known as Shikumen. Since its start, it has remained unchanged and local, but in 2006 the Tianzifang area was set on being demolished, like many older out-of-date areas in China, to give way to modern shopping complexes and high-rise apartments. In fact, just a block south there’s an ultra-modern shopping area with everything the well-to-dos dream about. However, there was plenty of opposition to the demolition from famous artists, business owners and residents alike, and they managed to persuade the government not to demolish the area, but to preserve it.
Architecturally, Tianzifang remains unchanged, withstanding both the test of time and modernity, but its atmosphere has blossomed from word of mouth amongst the local and international art enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. Currently it has over 200 coffee shops, tea houses, craft stores, restaurants and trendy art and fashion studios, all found within the maze of narrow alleyways. One of our favorite photographers operates right out of there, too!
If you notice in the last picture, in an attempt to look the part and fit in, I busted out the faux thick framed glasses. Glasses I haven’t worn since sweater vest night in Hawaii. My guess, between Ashley and I, we’ll have a few dozen pair come movin’ time.
For more pictures or information, here is Tianzifang’s official website: http://www.tianzifang.cn/en/home