Hidden Shanghai: Art Deco

Once known as the ‘Paris of the East’, Shanghai had its heyday in the 1920s and 30s when the bright young things partied, foreign investors were prolific and local businesses boomed. Fueled initially by the profiteers from the opium wars this was a period of style and growth.

There were a large number of foreigners living in the city at that time and buildings sprang up reflecting a fusion of Chinese and Art Deco styles known as ‘Chinese deco’. Today Shanghai is home to one of the richest collections of Art Deco architecture in the world.

The Bund has the most famous and iconic places but this week a few of us hardy teachers set out under a grey foreboding sky to explore the streets of the French Concession in search of some more of the hidden gems.

Our tour began at the Shanghai Library so this is a busman’s holiday photo

This building shows the Spanish villa style of architecture with the soft sandstone stucco walls, the spiral features on the columns and a mixture of square and round windows Note also the pitched roofline

Here is a good example of fusion architecture. The rectangular window with the ‘Spanish’ style columns next to an octagonal window which is known as a ba gua (or 8 movements In Taiji)

Here is a nice example of the curved windows which represent a ship in Art Deco. Many of these houses were formally owned by big businessmen or senior members of Chiang Kai Shek’s nationalist party. Nowadays they are divided into apartments and house multiple families. In this building a one room apartment of 10 square meters with a shared bathroom and shared kitchen would cost $1 million today.

A modern building but a nice Art Deco lamp feature
This street is where the red army first came and attacked locals in what became the very beginning of the Cultural Revolution
Beautiful geometrical bamboo panels give a very natural feel in this city of skyscrapers
More residential areas should be like this
A beautiful door feature
This building now houses 13 families
We wondered if this was where damaged books went to be repaired…

In actual fact it is a hospital specifically for artists and people who work in the media industry. How cool is that!

Designed by the Hungarian architect Laslo Hudec this is the most photographed building in Shanghai outside of The Bund.

Simple, stylish snd elegant

One thought on “Hidden Shanghai: Art Deco

  1. What an amazing selection of photographs. The Wukang building reminds me of the Flat Iron building in New York that was built in 1902 but a different architect. Many buildings around the world have interesting front and, for that matter, back doors and Shanghai is no exception.


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