Essential Architecture- The Bund, Shanghai

Sassoon House

presently The Peace Hotel (north wing), main building, formerly the Cathy Hotel and Sassoon House.


Palmer and Turner


No. 20, The Bund, Shanghai, China




Art Deco 


steel frame structure and a height of 77 metres.


  From left to right: The North Building of the Peace Hotel, Old Bank of China Building and Yokohama Specie Bank Building.
  The building with the pyramidal roof was formerly known as Sassoon House. The fourth to seventh floors of this 77 metre high building were originally occupied by the Cathay Hotel. Constructed between 1926 and 1929, it was a steel frame structure and a height of 77 metres.

Sassoon House was renamed the Peace Hotel in 1956 and is now the north wing of that hotel with the building - the former Palace Hotel on the opposite side of Nanjing Road being the south wing.

"According to some sources it was in this hotel that Noel Coward wrote his classic play - Private Lives"

The building immediately to the right of Sassoon House is the Bank of China building. Built in 1937, it was designed by Palmer and Turner - the same architects who designed Sassoon House. The 17 storey building has a reinforced concrete frame structure and is built to embody a Chinese style.
  Above image ©Paul Pak-hing Lee - 1997
  One of the rooms.
The Peace Hotel (Chinese: 和平饭店) is a world famous hotel on The Bund in Shanghai, China in the former International Settlement and overlooking the Huangpu River. The hotel today comprises two buildings. The North Building is Sassoon House, which housed the former Cathay Hotel. The South Building is the former Palace Hotel. The two buildings both face the Bund, but are divided by the famous Nanjing Road, arguably the busiest street in Shanghai. It was announced on April 16th, that the hotel will soon be closing, going through a complete renovation and reopening in 2009 as the pre-eminent luxury hotel in Shanghai as the Fairmont Peace Hotel Shanghai.

North Building

The larger North Building at Number 20, The Bund, is called Sassoon House. It was built by Sir Victor Sassoon, of the famous Sassoon family who dominated Shanghai business and real estate in the early 20th Century. He was a British Sephardic Jew of Iraqi origin, and his family had extensive business in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Calcutta. Sassoon House was the first high rise building built by Victor Sassoon. It was designed by P & T Architects Limited (Palmer and Turner), with a reinforced concrete structure. It occupied 4617 square metres, with a floor space of 36,317 square metres. Construction began in 1926 and completed in 1929. The building is ten storeys in height, partially thirteen storeys, and with a basement. The total height is 77 metres. From external design to interior decor, a consistent design scheme was followed. The building featured extensive use of straight lines in the exterior, with decorative patterns at pediments and eaves. Most of the building features granite facing, with the ninth floor and the roof surfaced with terracotta. The eastern facade (facing the Huangpu River and the Bund) features a pyramidal roof with steep sides and a height of about 10 metres. The pyramid is faced with copper (which is now green).

The building features an "A" shaped cross section. Before 1949, the ground floor space facing the Bund was leased to two banks. This space later became the Shanghai branch of Citibank in the 1980s. The rest of the ground floor featured a shopping arcade. Two main walkways crossed in the centre at an octagonal hall. The first to third floor were leased as offices. Sassoon's companies and subsidiaries had their offices in the fourth floor. The fifth to seventh floors housed the Cathay Hotel, with rooms decorated in exotic international themes. The eighth floor housed the main bar, a ball room, and a Chinese restaurant. The ninth floor is a night club and a small dining hall. The tenth floor was Victor Sassoon's private apartments. Within the pyramidal roof was the large dining hall.

Before 1949, the Cathay Hotel was regarded as the most prestigious hotel in Shanghai. Most international envoys visiting Shanghai would stay in the hotel. After the Communist takeover in 1949, some of the offices were used by the Municipal Finance Committee. In 1952 the building was taken over by the Municipal Government. In 1956 it resumed trading as a hotel under the name "Peace Hotel". In 1992 Peace Hotel was listed as one of the famous hotels of the world by the World Hotel Association. It remains the only hotel in China to have received this recognition. Today, it is particularly renowned for its Jazz Band and its roof terrace restaurant, overlooking the now booming district of Pudong across the Huangpu.
With the attached Cathay Hotel, was built by Sir Victor Sassoon. It was, and still is today, famous for its jazz band in its cafe. The top floor originally housed Sassoon's private apartment. Today, it forms the other part of the Peace Hotel.