Text by Chen Yun
Shanghai is recognized throughout China as a trendy cosmopolitan metropolis, thanks to its longtime position as a gateway to modern Western civilization. First-time visitors rarely miss strolling along the Bund, where stately exotic architectural clusters hearken to the colonial era of old Shanghai. Just across the Huangpu River, the glistening modern skyline reflects the city’s hectic pace.
Stretching a kilometer from Astor House Hotel on Huangpu Road in the north to Asia Building (No.1 East-1 Zhongshan Road on the Bund) at the south, a row of imposing riverfront buildings evidence a major pre-war European presence, giving the Bund a monumental reputation as a “museum of international architecture.”
A towering landmark nearby, Garden Bridge has survived more than a hundred years. British architects and technicians contributed to the design and construction of the bridge, and all the steel was imported from Britain. Today, its nostalgic aura particularly attracts newlyweds taking wedding photos and painters seeking inspiration.
Not far away, at 33 East-1 Zhongshan Road, the former British consulate is nestled under a green canopy. The compound features typical British renaissance architectural style characterized by a square fa?ade, column-supported balconies, red-and-white brick walls, and gardens and lawns. At the opposite end of the road, the Asia Building draws eyes as an earlier neo-classical work of prestigious Hungarian architect Ladislav Edvard Hudec (1893-1958).
Less than 30 years after he arrived in Shanghai as a World War I refugee in the 1910s, Hudec blazed a brilliant architectural career, leaving behind more than 100 stunning buildings in Shanghai. He is thus regarded as a legendary figure in the city’s architectural history.
Contrasting visitors, local Shanghai residents are quite familiar with the city’s past as a thriving commercial and financial center, and tend to obsess over the former concession district, where authentic traditional flavor of old Shanghai still permeates the shadows of luxuriant phoenix trees.