Shanghai’s reputation as a creative centre for corporate events is rising. To meet elevated market expectations, event management companies are utilising a broad portfolio of spaces across the city’s vast geography. Calvin Klein’s largest 2006 event was held at a warehouse in Zhabei, Chanel threw a party on the Maglev train, Red Bull Formula One had a riverside reception and Montblanc held its 100th anniversary party at the Shanghai Movie Studios.
“Shanghai has come a long way since I first arrived in 1995,” says Annette Allbutt, business development and account director for public relations company Grebstad Hicks. “The Shanghai American Club opened in 1997 with three private hospitality floors. Today, companies go all out in a very competitive environment, schmoozing their targeted audiences in the most opulent way.”
New venues are opening frequently, but not all are suitable for sophisticated or larger events. “Shanghai has a great range of established and new venues,” says Anna Patterson, director of events for Offsite Connections. “But there is a gap between the older, more established venues, such as the Shanghai Exhibition Centre, which can cater for groups of 600 or more and hotel ballrooms. Shanghai needs larger, more adaptable venues for bigger groups that are not within a hotel environment.”
Venues with historical heritage – such as the Children’s Palace, Yu Garden and Rujin Hotel – have real appeal for clients, says Patterson. “We love to take a ballroom and transform it into a 1920s Paris of the East theme. This works well in ballroom spaces, as we can theme the pre-function area, create room drops and also create unique reveal mechanisms for the room, such as Kabuki Drops, revolving stage sets for cabaret performances and close-proximity fireworks.”
Peter Pecotic, managing director of Turningpoint Solutions, agrees that hotels play a pivotal role. “Shanghai has some of the best convention hotels in the world,” he says. “The Grand Hyatt and Shangri-La are truly world class for event catering, service and flexibility. But clients coming for an incentives or conferencing visit want a Chinese experience, particularly for an awards or gala dinner evening.
“Shanghai is more challenging in this aspect than Beijing.”
Cultural heritage is a strong draw. “In pre-production phase, we often suggest the Children’s Palace on Nanjing Road. It was set up by a Chinese philanthropist, who worked with the Soong Ling Foundation for disadvantaged children,” Pecotic says. “The interior is beautiful, and it has a wonderful ballroom, incorporating Chinese and European elements.
“The key, though, is to bring in the right theming and entertainment to make it a Chinese experience.”
Large, established spaces with cultural appeal are popular, agrees Frank Fan, senior account manager for APNC Integrated Marketing. “The Children’s Palace is quite hot,” he says, though the most popular event venue is the Shanghai Exhibition Centre. “It has a convenient location, opposite the Portman Ritz-Carlton, and an amazingly spacious hall. Big events held there include the Louis Vuitton 150th anniversary party and the Diesel China launch.”
The Shanghai Gallery of Art at Three on the Bund hosts the Three Talk lecture series, with speakers including The World is Flat author Thomas Friedman, as well as artistic and charity-related events such as the Guggenheim Armani retrospective celebration. In the same building, Vault bar at Laris restaurant was recently transformed into a VIP club for a Dior Snow launch, complete with acrobats hanging from silk strips in the atrium.
At Five on the Bund, the new Glamour Bar (see page 40) – which moved to its own sixth-floor space last summer – is home to the annual Shanghai Literary Festival. The period interior hosted a 300-guest, “Belle Epoque” themed China launch for Perrier Jouet champagne. Accenture also conducted a panel discussion chaired by CNN’s Lorraine Hahn. The terrace at seventh-floor sister restaurant, M on the Bund, is a widely-used cocktail-and-fireworks reception space.
As Shanghai’s international profile grows, diverse locations are being sought to reach out to clients, partners and consumers. Last autumn, Austrade erected an Australian House in Xintiandi, showcasing Australia’s finest foods, wines, home accessories and alpaca wool products. The Celebrate Australia event coincided with Shanghai Fashion Week, with a show by Australian designers in a marquee in Fuxing Park.
Across town in the leafy grounds of Jiaotong University, the CY Tung Maritime Museum is located in a renovated former dormitory. The upper deck traces the life of the shipping magnate, while the ground floor is dedicated to China’s maritime history. The Shanghai Historic Housing Association hosted a membership event here and a marine technology company held a post-conference cocktail reception. “We are now trying to promote the venue for cultural, music and arts-related events,” says museum board member Cathy Hau.
Scattered across Shanghai, many new venues tend to be smaller, with more niche appeal, says Offsite Connections’ Anna Patterson.
“The style of these venues is modern and more of a blank canvas, which is a great advantage for us,” she explains. “Shanghai Sculpture Space, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Pier One, Urban Planning Museum and Shanghai Art Gallery are making their mark in the industry.”
Small and boutique-style is a restaurant/bar called Mix, opened last summer by Mesa/Manifesto in a renovated electronics factory. In-house catering is available and the space is favoured by advertising and creative services companies for brainstorming and board meetings.
The best view in town
In a city noted for its eclectic skyline, venues with a view are increasingly popular, particularly near the Bund and People’s Square.
Says Annette Allbutt of Grebstad Hicks: “I like Kathleen’s 5 for large events. It has historical views and good service, both of which please international and local attendees, and it has great photo opportunities for the international media.” Anna Patterson of Offsite Connections agrees: “For the cityscape around People’s Square, we love the new Le Royal Méridien, Kathleen’s 5 and MOCA.”
The tallest building in Puxi, Le Royal Méridien opened in late 2006 and has the 789 Nanjing Lu bar and lounge on the 64th-66th floors, with dizzying 360-degree city views. The hotel’s own first-night party was held here, as was the 2006 China Fashion Awards after-party.
Miuccia Prada held a retrospective for 1,500 people at the soon-to-be-renovated Peace Hotel, while Vivienne Westwood did likewise at the creative space at Bund 18.
Across the Huangpu, the Pudong Shangri-La’s Jade on 36 Restaurant and Bar, designed by Adam Tihany, can be utilised both separately and as a combined space. Since opening in late 2005, it has hosted around 20 corporate events and functions. The Monaco Tourism Bureau recently used it for an exhibition introducing Monaco to the Chinese audience.
An impressive Shanghai overview is also provided by the 52nd-floor Bankers’ Club, at the Bank of China Tower in Lujiazui. Floor-to-ceiling glass in the reception area enables guests to almost reach out and touch the adjacent Oriental Pearl Tower. The venue is available for lunch, dinner and cocktail events. Last year, the Tianjin Economic Development Agency held a presentation here for potential investors, lawyers and bankers.
Topping the lot is the world’s highest bar: Cloud 9, sitting on the 87th floor of the Grand Hyatt at the Jin Mao Tower. The hotel is one of Shanghai’s most in-demand event locations, and event organisers can use the 54th-floor lobby café – with 360-degree views – for a conference break-out or reception space.
The 19th-floor terrace at the Crowne Plaza Fudan – which overlooks the Fudan University complex, with views over Baoshan and back to Pudong – presents an unusual bird’s eye perspective of the city. Elite Model Look Asia held a pre-fashion show cocktail reception here, and the Foreign Affairs Office of Fudan University hosted 35 of Shanghai’s consulate generals.
“Venues with a view are of interest to clients,” says Patterson. “However, often these are too small for our requirements. New Heights is a definite preference with our clients. We’ve also used the Glamour Bar and M on the Bund for smaller events, and Attica is perfect for a fashion/product launch with its large balcony and high-domed ceiling.”
HIGHRISE and SPECIAL
15, Zhong Shan Dong Er Lu, Shanghai
Located on the Bund on the 11th Floor, the breathtaking view of Shanghai is something you cannot miss. The floor is divided into nine parts with different themes; R&B, dance, Titanium Lounge, Platinum Lounge, Balinese terrace, Zen terrace and Finestre.
Bund 5, Shanghai
Using the idea of a 1930s Hollywood film set relocated to 21st-century Shanghai as the concept, the Glamour Room can hold cocktail parties to corporate celebrations and product launches, from gatherings of 40 to events of 400.
M on the Bund
Bund 5, Shanghai
Located at the authentic Nissin Shipping Building constructed in 1921 and overlooking the Bund and Pudong skyline. The Crystal room can hold up to 60 people and 150 people in its dining room.
CY Tung Maritime Museum
Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 1954 Hua Shan Road
This venue has a recreation area at the second floor of the CY Tung Gallery which offers sky-lit atrium space and a seating area. The garden outside features a commemorative anchor surrounded by seasonal plants.
Mimosa Supperclub – Pier One
1/F, 88 Yi Chang Road, Shanghai
Located in a classic 1930s Art Deco building, formerly the Shanghai Brewery, now a chic entertainment complex called Pier One.
Recent events include:
• BMW Club 3 event
• Mobil One press conference
• Lufthansa party
• Anna Sui event
Ruijin Hotel Shanghai
118 Ruijin 2nd Road, Shanghai
Located in the former French Concession of Shanghai. It’s a garden hotel which offers guestrooms and various banquet and meeting halls, which were all designed in traditional British style mostly built in the 1920s or 30s.
Museum of contemporary art (MOCA) Shanghai
People’s Park, 231 Nanjing West Road
MOCA offers five different spaces for hosting events: Gallery one and two, multi-function room (capacity: 80 seats), MOCA Caffee and Ristorante Italiano (capacity: 160 for dining and 300 for drinks reception). There is a VIP room inside the restaurant, which can hold up to 15 people.
Shanghai Exhibition Center
1000 Yan An Zhong Lu,
Jin An District, Puxi
Also known as the Russian Centre, the Shanghai Exhibition Centre is opposite the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Suitable for large events, high-end fashion and luxury events.
Recent events include:
• Louis Vuitton 150th anniversary party
• Diesel China Launch
• Dior Rouge Regional Fashion Show
Yu Garden (Yu Yuan)
132 An Ren Road, Pu Xi District
The Yu Garden is located in Anren Jie, south of the Bund. It’s a 400-year-old Chinese garden with over 30 pavilions linked by a maze of corridors and bridges over ponds.
Crowne Plaza Fudan Shanghai
199 Handan Road, Shanghai
The newly opened Crowne Plaza Fudan Shanghai is opposite Fudan University, with easy access to Shanghai’s tourist attractions. It has a lounge which serves extensive teas from different regions across China and a wine bar with live jazz performances.