Shanghai Walks: Laszlo Hudec in Shanghai

Walk around key works from the architect who shaped art deco Shanghai

Hungarian-Slovak architect László Hudec was one of the key figures in shaping the look of Shanghai during the 1930s. He was responsible for structures across the city, from the old power station in Zhabei district to the Union Brewery (still standing opposite the Qianshuiwan Creative Arts Centre).

Born in Austria-Hungary in 1893, Hudec volunteered to join the army at the outbreak of the First World War, but was sent to a prison camp in Siberia following his unit’s capture by Russian forces in 1916. The story goes that on his way to be transferred to this camp, Hudec jumped from a train near the Chinese border and fled to Shanghai.

Having opened his own architectural practice in the city in 1925, Hudec left the city 22 years later having helped create dozens of buildings throughout the city and leaving an indelible mark on Shanghai. Hudec’s former residence at 135 Panyu Lu has been converted into a museum with glass cabinets displaying old architectural plans, sketches and photographs, and is set to open to the public in the next few months. This walk takes in some of his key designs between People’s Square and The Bund.

Starting point People’s Square metro station, line 1/2/8

Walking time 1.5 hours

Click to enlarge map


Take exit nine from People’s Square metro station, turn right and you’ll find yourself immediately opposite the Hudec-designed Grand Theatre, completed in 1933. When it opened, it was labelled ‘the best cinema of the Far East’ and was the height of technological innovation – each seat had a translation system installed so that the Chinese audience could enjoy the foreign-language films through individual earpieces.

Today, much of its Art Deco glamour remains intact and it’s well worth a look inside, with both ground and second floor areas open to non-ticket buying members of the public and displaying some beautifully sleek Art Deco lines. Back outside, turn left on Nanjing Xi Lu and left again into Huanghe Lu. On the left is number 21, where Hudec’s Carlton Theatre stood until it was knocked down to make way for this office tower in 1997.

Q. A branch of which long-running Shanghainese restaurant now occupies a spot in the tower?

Completing what was once the trio of Hudec buildings on this section of the former Jingan Temple Road is the Park Hotel, finished in 1934. The building was the tallest in the city when it opened and remained so until the 1980s. Retrace your steps up Huanghe Lu and enter the hotel through its grand main doors at 170 Nanjing Xi Lu.

Take the spiral staircase on the left (just past the reception area) from the lobby bar to the second floor. Here you’ll find glass cases housing small display of memorabilia charting the hotel’s history, including old menus listing fabulously retro food.

Park Hotel Shanghai

Displays in the two small rooms on the western side of the floor feature a reproduced note from Hudec suggesting a change of use for the building from its originally intended purpose as apartments. The owners agreed with Hudec’s analysis, resulting in them renaming the property ahead of its grand opening on December 1 1934.

Q. What was the Park Hotel’s originally intended name?

When you’ve finished looking at the displays of old record players and photos of grand events from the hotel’s history, such as the installation of a Shanghai-US phone line on which Soong Meiling called Eleanor Roosevelt, head back out of the hotel and across the pedestrian crossing immediately in front, turning diagonally left onto Jiujiang Lu. Stick to the left-hand side of this road, allowing you to reach the pedestrian crossing over Xizang Zhong Lu.

Once on the east side of Xizang Lu, cross Jiujiang Lu and walk a few paces south to the site of the Moore Memorial Church, a place of worship designed by Hudec to replace another of his buildings, the McTyeire School, which was demolished in 1929. A left turn onto Hankou Lu allows you a look at the church’s south side and a clearer view of its bell tower and a number of stone carvings.

Q. On the easternmost building, four stone carvings above a window depict a cross, a goblet, a book and which animal?

Continue heading east on Hankou Lu and zigzag right onto Yunnan Zhong Lu, past the Yifu Theatre, left onto ‘hairdressers street’ Shantou Lu – where buildings are covered with signs for demolition – right onto Guangxi Bei Lu, left on Guangdong Lu and then left again onto Zhejiang Zhong Lu. At number 123 sits the Zhejiang Cinema, or the Chekiang Theatre as it was called when

it opened in 1929. A lesser-known Hudec work, the building is looking a little worse for wear today. The grumpy ticket sellers are rarely in the mood for letting enthusiasts take a peek upstairs, meaning you’ll most likely have to buy a ticket to see the stunning auditorium, which has red velvet curtains, tiered seating and charming Art Deco decor. Back outside, keep heading north on Yunnan Zhong Lu before turning right onto Fuzhou Lu and heading south for several blocks until you reach number 209, once the site of the American Club, another Hudec-designed building, constructed between 1923-25.

Q. According to the heritage architecture plaque on the wall, what style is this building produced in?

Continue south on Fuzhou Lu to the junction with Sichuan Zhong Lu, where a left turn and a short walk will bring you to number 259. Another Hudec creation which has seen better days, this grand structure was once the Joint Savings and Loan Building, completed in 1926. Keep heading north on Sichuan Zhong Lu until you reach Beijing Dong Lu. Here, take a short turn right and then left onto Huqiu Lu, passing the Rockbund Art Museum on your right.

At number 128, two Hudec buildings sit back to back. On Huqiu Lu is the Christian Literature Society Building, while directly behind it at 209 Yuanmingyuan Lu (turn right onto Nan Suzhou Lu and take the first right onto Yuanmingyuan Lu) is the China Baptist Publication Building. Both were completed in 1930 and now form part of a revamped area that features a number of historic 1930s buildings mostly converted to high-end restaurants and luxury brand shops.

Q. Hoardings blocking the heritage plaque for the China Baptist Publication Building declare that the area is undergoing what?

wedding-photos-in-shanghaiContinue along Yuanmingyuan Lu, a pleasantly pedestrianised street that is often flooded with wedding and fashion photographers when the weather suits. Nearly all of the buildings here feature a heritage plaque explaining their origins and architectural style. At the end of the street, cross over Beijing Dong Lu, and turn right on Dianchi Lu. At Jiangxi Lu turn right, then left at Ningbo Lu, continuing west until you reach Henan Zhong Lu. Situated on the northwest corner of these crossroads, you’ll find the former Chinese American Bank of Commerce, one of Hudec’s earliest Shanghai buildings, completed in 1920. There’s not even a heritage plaque to mark its existence however, and today it hosts an 85C bakery.

Q. Which hotel occupies the second floor?

Getting home This final stop brings you to Nanjing Dong Lu metro station, on lines 2 and 10.

Pit stop Being in central Shanghai, there are numerous restaurants, cafes and convenience stores at regular intervals along this route where you can stop for refreshment.

Just beyond the Yuanmingyuan Lu-Nan Suzhou Lu junction, housed in the former Shanghai Rowing Club building, is Shanghai Rose, which operates as a cafe during the day and makes for a pleasant stop toward the end of this walk. Alternatively, you can pre-empt two of our prizes by heading to Muse at The Bund for a drink, or to Capo for dinner, both in the Yifeng Galleria complex by Rockbund.

For a good mid-way point stop-off, we like the rustic Xinjiang charm of Guangguan Ji Lamian (70 Zhejiang Zhong Lu, near Guangdong Lu) on the corner just before you get to the Zhejiang Cinema. Bowls of noodles start from 10RMB and of course there are lamb chuan (3RMB each) and Xinjiang bread (3RMB).