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?
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superseded by asymmetry, and features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.