The Art Deco style originated in Paris but influenced architecture and culture. Even in the modern day, the type is worldwide. The movement grew out of Art Nouveau in the early 20th century, and its name refers to the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. NaIt was named after 1925 fair, where the style official made its debut. Art Deco works are symmetrical, streamlined, and pleasing to the eye. During the 20s, this style was prominent in contrast to the avant-garde aesthetic of the decade.
Many know about the Art Deco movement that started in Europe, but not many people know that China has a significant history with Art Deco itself. With the end of World War 1, an economic boom was on the rise. Art Deco came at the right time; the world was excited with the progress in trade thanks to train and ship travel. During this time, European and British architects did not hesitate to take this design style with them to the Americas, Africa, and Asia. With Shanghai being one of the essential ports in trade, it is no surprise that it made its way here. In the eyes of the people, business brought prosperity and aspiration. People are always in search of what is new and modern.
When looking at western Art, Deco is about celebrating something entirely different from traditions. Western Deco focuses on celebrating technology and machinery. But when you look at Chinese Deco, they use traditional Chinese motifs and patterns in their designs. It is more of an interpretation of Western Deco. Designers would also incorporate Chinese materials like lacquer, local woods, and silks into their creations. Although a little different, they do maintain similar elements. They include symmetry, geometry, and scale—for example, pagoda-like roofs.
When visiting Shanghai, most people overlook the design influences. Many focus on futuristic skyscrapers and super modern designs. But Shanghai has one of the world’s most impressive collections of Art Deco buildings.
One of the best places to witness Chinese Deco in the city is the Bund. Also known as Waitan, the Bund is a raised promenade on the western bank of the river Huangpu in Shanghai. The Bank of China building is one people often admire. It has lattice-style windows and Chinese-style roof tiles rendered in stone. The building was Completed in the 1930s and designed by a team of British and Chinese architects. Another fantastic building is the former Continental Bank building. It was renovated recently but still has some traditional Chinese motifs.
Willow Court Apartments is an excellent example of middle-era Art-Deco design. It is symmetrical, linear, and streamlined. Leonard, Veysseyre & Kruze designed it from a famous design firm during the French Concession in the 1930s.
One of old Shanghai’s most talented architects, Robert Fan, is beloved by many for his Art Deco-inspired designs. After studying in school, he returned to China and created some unique strategies. One of which is the 1941 Majestic Theatre. The lobbies and staircases are shining examples of this design rendered in terrazzo, iron, and wood.