Modern Shanghai

World Monuments Watch
Shanghai, China

2008 World Monuments Watch

Shanghai has long been one of China's most important international trading hubs. To meet the needs of a city undergoing unprecedented growth and social change between the two World Wars, European and foreign-trained Chinese architects working in Shanghai-such as Alexander Léonard, Laszlo Hudec, and Doon Da You-employed new ideas about space and form, industrial materials, and building technologies to design efficient and simple buildings. The work of the Chinese architects of that time is particularly significant-historically and architecturally-as many were grappling with the seemingly conflicting notions of modernity and traditionalism at a time of heightened nationalism. The buildings of Laszlo Hudec, including his 1933 Grand Theater, are noteworthy. Dr. Wu's Villa, completed in 1938, was said to have been "one of the largest and richest residences in all of the Far East" and is a fine example of the architect's later work. Today, Shanghai is once again experiencing a period of remarkable growth. The city's municipal government has introduced a heritage list for individual structures of the time between the wars, but this does not guarantee their long-term safeguarding. While some of the most prominent early modern structures have been recognized as landmarks, the threats to buildings from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s persist due to lack of awareness and appreciation of this rich legacy of the recent past.

Last updated:
July 2008

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