Shanghai Art Deco Mythbusters
1. The Bund is Art Deco.
Newsflash: Western architecture does not equal Art Deco. There are 24 buildings on the Bund, and only three of them are Art Deco:
2. Western architects (mostly French) designed Shanghai’s Art Deco buildings.
The Majestic Theatre. The Chinese YMCA. The Bank of China. The Central Savings Society. The YWCA. The Georgia Apartments. Shanghai Municipal Government buildings. These are some of Shanghai’s most iconic, and creative, Art Deco buildings, and they were all designed by Chinese architects trained in the west: Robert Fan, Poy Gum Lee, Dong Dayun and Zhao Shen, among others. It was this group of architects, with their unique east-west perspective, who also created Chinese Deco. This brand new style – entirely in keeping with Shanghai’s cosmopolitan nature – featured Art Deco’s geometric lines and design elements, with modernized Chinese elements such as Chinese roofs, patterns and characters.
3. Art Deco is all about architecture.
Art Deco was the last “complete” style, meaning it permeated all sorts of design: architecture, of course, but also graphic design, art, fashion, furniture, interior design, textiles – you could actually live a complete Art Deco life.
4. In China, you’ll only find Art Deco in Shanghai.
Shanghai has the largest collection of Art Deco in China, but you’ll find Art Deco throughout country, particularly in former treaty ports. Nanjing, site of our post-Congress trip, has a particularly fine cache, designed by many of the same Chinese architects working in Shanghai, who were commissioned to design buildings for the new government.
5. Shanghai Art Deco is dead – it ended with the arrival of the Communists in 1949.
Contemporary “Deco Echo” buildings are everywhere you look in Shanghai. From the Jin Mao building to Printemps Department store, Art Deco is still Shanghai’s signature style. (We hear in Tianjin that the mayor has declared that the only styles for new buildings are Art Deco and neoclassical!). For most office buildings, it’s the exterior only (and often gilded with glass and steel which does nothing for us), but many residential buildings continue the Art Deco design in the interior as well.