When is the Art Deco era?

Recognise three periods of the Art Deco era

Before you dive into Shanghai’s Art Deco scene, you’ll need to know the basics. The Art Deco era can generally be divided into three periods. But how to recognise them?

Early (1926-1932)

The first years of Art Deco architecture introduced buildings that were uniformly symmetrical, and significantly more ornate, recalling Victorian, Edwardian and Art Nouveau styles and decked out with much more ornamentation than in later guises. The Lincoln Apartments at 1555 Huaihai Zhong Lu are a good example of this, but the most iconic is the former Cathay Hotel, now the Fairmont Peace Hotel, on The Bund – probably the most famous Art Deco spot in the whole of Shanghai.

Mid Period (1930-36)

These years produced what is generally regarded as the classic Art Deco style, in which buildings became more streamlined and curvaceous, although symmetry remained king. Ornamentation began to disappear, with architecture instead integrating classic Art Deco motifs such as speedlines, portholes and something called ‘ziggurats’ (receding terraced levels, as seen on the Bank of China on The Bund, complete with Chinese window-lattices). See also the Gascogne apartments at 1202 Huaihai Zhong Lu, and the Willow Court apartments at 34 Fuxing Xi Lu.

Late Period (1935-48)

As the defining era drew to a close, buildings became far more minimal in terms of ornamentation, with play on form taking precedence. Symmetry was superseded by asymmetry, and features such as corner windows and glass brick became characteristic, which according to Historic Shanghai, foreshadow the midcentury Modern style that was to follow. Check out the Amyron Apartments at 14 Gaoan Lu, the Georgia Apartments at 311- 331 Hengshan Lu, and the Shanghai Trade Union building on the The Bund to see examples of this style.