The site of this year’s One Show Greater China Festival rests in the heart of 1933 Shanghai, a multipurpose atrium with a collection of shops and restaurants lining concrete walls and decorated with lacy metalwork. Beeline straight for the entrance and you might miss a bronze plaque commemorating the structure’s initial purpose: systematically killing countless cattle.
Formerly known as the Shanghai Municipal Council Slaughterhouse, the basilica-inspired building served a booming industrial Shanghai since its construction in 1933. At its peak, the abattoir provided two-thirds of the city’s meat, according to China Daily. Since the early 2000s it has served as a picturesque dining and shopping destination and conference location.
If the term “concrete jungle” were not reserved for metropolises like greater Shanghai, it would be used for the layout of the former slaughterhouse and its numerous spiral staircases and narrow bridges crisscrossing several-story drops. Perhaps “concrete web” would be better suited for a place with no clear path from the ground to its rooftop garden.
In a design is so intricate and dizzying it’s easy to overlook its initial purpose as an efficient killing machine. Especially when walking past a Starbucks and a jewelry specialist.
Much of the slaughterhouse’s original design is still intact, including the grooved cattle ramp used to herd animals up to holding pens. Today, the ramp – along with the rest of the building – is a popular photo shoot location for families and newlyweds alike.
After resting and receiving a final meal in the holding pen, the cattle would be escorted across series of bridges that span the building’s walls and a center structure where the animals would be killed. The bridges are still used as walkways for visitors today but remain too narrow to stand side-by-side with another person.
Modern installations like handrails and wooden decks mask some of the concrete killing features of the past. In the center structure, resembling something like a multi-floored coliseum with a series of stairwells, a “Hunger Games” arena pits people against each other in a mock hunting game with bows and arrows. On another floor, visitors are locked in an escape room and solve puzzles and riddles to be freed.
Such repurposing feels intentionally twisted among specialty shops and a dog café. For teams at the One Show Greater China Festival, the macabre venue could serve as a metaphor for the intensity of the competition. Attendees staying at the neighboring Greenland Jiulong Hotel are also, according to city records, resting at the former site of the slaughterhouse’s cold storage.
Trip videographer Tanner Evans spent the past two days photographing numerous angles at the former slaughterhouse. View a gallery of his favorite shots below.