Architectural restoration, spicy food and Danish furniture in Chengdu

By Kent Dahl

Tall, modern, and glittering skylines in numerous Chinese cities are a sign of Chinese people’s love for everything new. However, unconventional Chinese architect, Wang Hai, has made a name for himself restoring old historic buildings and furnishing them with Danish furniture.

After spending 27 years in Hong Kong, Wang Hai returned to his hometown, Chengdu, the provisional capital in the Sichuan province in 2012.Originally majoring in block print in the 1970’s, he worked as an artist and later opened a restaurant in Hong Kong. Here he was also crowned as “Hong Kong’s father of private home cuisine”.

After his return to Chengdu, Wang Hai wanted to open another restaurant. Looking for a suitable location, he ventured into the old Chongdeli neighbourhood dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. The area was part of the local government’s restoration project.

Eighty-five years ago, a merchant named Wang Chongde bought most of the residential houses in the area. “Li”  is a common name for Chengdu’s streets and alleys so the area was named “Chongdeli”. This is also the name that Wang Hai chose for his restaurant.

Because of the war back in 1938, imported paper, and paper from other provinces could not be transported to Sichuan. So Jiale Paper Mill opened an office in Chongdeli in order to facilitate local production of paper.

Wang Hai chose this dilapidated building complex for his restaurant. “My aim was to integrate new elements into the old frame of the building,” explains Wang Hai, who decided to be the architect and interior designer of the project. “I wanted to keep the old look to protect the building and preserve Chengdu culture,” he adds.

The result is a combined boutique hotel, restaurant and tearoom. The restaurant, serving new Sichuan cuisine is laid out as a private kitchen serving maximum 36 guests. They sit on the so-called Wishbone Chair or CH24 chair designed by the famous Danish architect Hans J. Wegner and produced by Carl Hansen & Son in Denmark.

Likewise, the tea room has one big table surrounded by Danish CH46 chairs also designed by Wegner and produced by Carl Hansen & Son. The same chair is used in the famous Danish restaurant, Noma, in Copenhagen, which was twice named the best restaurant in the world.

In addition, “Chongdeli” is also a boutique hotel with 12 rooms partly furnished with the wingchair (CH445) as well as CH008 and CH415 coffee tables from Carl Hansen & Son. »I think there is an inner connection between Wegner furniture and Chinese culture,” says Wang Hai, who gained first-hand knowledge with Hans J. Wegner and Carl Hansen & Son about 29 years ago in Hong Kong. “Hans J. Wegner was presumably inspired by the Chinese Ming period chairs, when he created his CH24 chair,” adds Wang Hai.

“Chongdeli” was Wang Hai’s first architectural project in Chengdu and it became an instant success with the local middle-upper class as well as designers, and architects and culture lovers. Since then, Chinese architects has made a number of other eye-catching projects in his hometown.

Carl Hansen & Son furniture used in the project:
CH88, CH46, CH37, CH322, TK8

Read more about Carl Hansen & Son here.