Alexander Yaron’s Shanghai Art Deco
The Astrid. The Petain. The Washington. Three iconic Shanghai Art Deco buildings, created by an iconic Russian architect. Alexander I. Yaron was not only an architect and engineer — as a colonel, he fought in the Imperial Russian Army during the Russian Revolution. With the Communist victory in 1917, he fled to Shanghai. Here, in this booming metropolis, he continued his architectural practice, creating this trio of Art Deco beauties, and more: Yaron also designed the Church of St. Nicholas, Linda Terrace, the Majestic Hotel, and the Ministry of Communications building in Nanjing.
Walking Tour: On Sunday August 21, we’ll learn more about Yaron’s work on Katya Knyazeva’s walk, “Boulevard Moscou: Russians in the French Concession”. The tour begins at 2pm, RMB200 for Historic Shanghai members and RMB 250 for nonmembers. To book: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Astrid Apartments
With its striking southwest-facing front facade, gorgeous green and yellow glazed tiles, lavish details and cartouche lit up with an Art Deco sunburst, the Astrid is an Art Deco classic. And that’s just the exterior: inside, a riot of speedlines in green and black lobby mosaic race across the lobby and up the stairs. Each apartment door is graced with exquisite geometric marquetry surrounds, hinting at the attention to detail in the apartment interiors: hardwood floors, picture rails, and original lighting fixtures that survive in some of the apartments. The ground floor was once home to shops such as Jinhua Embroidery, who created hand-embroidered table and bed linens.
To read about a long-term resident of the Astrid, click here.
The Petain Apartments
A jewel of an apartment house, named for its location on tree-lined Avenue Petain (today’s Hengshan Lu). The Petain Apartments are perfectly balanced, with a central tower flanked by a pair of vertical wings and bisected with balconies. The deep stucco panels adorning the exterior feature a distinctive Art Deco bubble pattern decoration. More delights await in the interior: a highly geometric – though sadly neglected and dusty – lobby area, with an amazing spiral staircase that spins dramatically upwards. The apartments and the street were named for Marshal Philippe Petain, the head of France’s wartime Nazi collaborationist Vichy Government.
The Washington Apartments
The Washington’s imposing facade dominates the corner of what was once Avenue Petain (Hengshan Lu) and Route Cohen (Gao’an Lu). Completed in 1928, just three years after the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs in Paris that defined Art Deco, the Washington bears its streamlined signature, with ziggurats and organic floral decorations around the entrances. Don’t be fooled by the ziggurat cartouche topping the roof, however: the top two floors, and that Art Deco topper, are a 1980s addition. In the courtyard, an old fountain lies half-buried behind contemporary junk, and inside, the hallways workaday and the apartments simple, all the better to enjoy the views that once reached all the way to St. Ignatius (Xujiahui Cathedral).
To read about a tragic Washington Apartments suicide that resonated across the world in 1934, click here.