Essential Architecture- The Bund, Shanghai

Nissin Building

formerly Shanghai Customs Office, formerly Nissian Steamship Co. (housed a Japanese shipping company).


Lester, Johnson and Morriss


No. 5, The Bund, Shanghai, China








Office Building
  Above image ©Paul Pak-hing Lee - 1997
  Above image reproduced with the generous permission of Simon Fieldhouse. Copyright Simon Fieldhouse.
NKK had inhabited a collection of old buildings on the corner of the Bund and Guangdong Road, formerly used by a Japanese fire insurance company, in 1907. By 1910 the buildings within the compound of the Japanese Nisshin Kisen Kaisha Shipping Co. were, by their own admission, regarded as an eyesore and they commissioned Lester, Johnson and Morriss to design their new Renaissance-style premises. The building was completed in late 1921. NKK’s presence on the Bund, alongside other Japanese interests, was indicative of the growing influence of Japan in China following the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. The company was formed in 1907 upon the amalgamation of the Osaka Shosen Kaisha (OSK) and other Japanese shipping lines. Two OSK mail steamers, under contract to the Imperial Japanese Government, were first put into service on the Yangtsze River in 1898 signaling the first threat to Chinese and British dominance on China’s most important waterway. Less than 40 years later all British vessels were banished from the river by the Japanese.

One of the earliest applicants for a space in the new building was a Japanese entrepreneur who wished to open a Turkish bath and restaurant in part of the basement. In recent times, the building has again been open to businesses seeking a Bund address in quite a different manner to those of its neighbours. Sections of the building, which is owned by the Shanghai Shipping Company, have been leased on short-term agreements by a few individualistic entrepreneurs.

Part of the basement is now occupied by a British-run bar and part of the first floor is occupied by Design Republic, a lifestyle design showcase established by Lyndon Neri and Rossana Ru. Three on the Bund also have their offices in the building.
It was, however, the transformation of the roof of the building into the now legendary M on the Bund in 1999, the Bond’s first independently operated eatery in modern times, which set the benchmark for the subsequent development of restaurants and cultural venues that were to follow. M on the Bund expanded its premises in the building with the opening of the Glamour Bar, below the restaurant, in June 2006.