When Europe met Asia…with delicious results

© 2005 digital scan by Leonore Hietkamp

Some of Shanghai’s most revered architecture was designed by a Hungarian, László Hudec (1893-1958), whose works are on display at Shanghai’s Museum of Contemporary Art as 3D virtual reality building explorations.

These tours are part of the museum’s tribute to Hungary (through Sept. 5), which highlights that country’s contributions to film, music and design. Museum patrons virtually “fly through” every nook, cranny, form, plane, space and detail of three architectural treasures that exemplify Hudec’s Art Deco and Modernist style:

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Park Hotel: At 22 stories, this was the tallest building in the Far East for decades and Shanghai’s tallest building through the 1980s. Hudec was inspired by New York’s and Chicago’s skyscrapers, which he experienced firsthand in 1927. Completed in 1934, the Park Hotel is a masterpiece of modernism and Art Deco and a symbol of Shanghai’s rapid development in the 1930’s. Virtual visitors marvel at the hotel’s elegant Art Deco lobby.

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Moore Memorial Church: Re-built by Hudec in 1931, the church was originally built in 1887 to serve the Methodist community. Gothic vaulted ceilings, stone ribbing, and stained glass windows exemplify the neo-Gothic style. The bell tower on the southwest corner, at 42.1 meters, was the highest tower in Shanghai at the time. This is one of several sacred buildings that Hudec designed in Shanghai on a pro bono basis.

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D.V. Woo House: Completed in July 1938, this was one of the most spacious and luxurious homes in the Far East at the time. Known as the “green house” after the hue of the glazed tiles that covered its surface, this residence integrates modern architecture with Art Deco. The home was famous for its staggering array of rooms, including a banquet hall, ballroom, billiard room, bar, chess room, greenhouse, and sunroom. It was also the first home in Shanghai with an elevator and air conditioning. The Italian marble staircase, copper handrail and copper radiators were all novelties at the time.

Hudec was trained in Budapest as a classical architect. A visit to the USA in 1927 shifted Hudec’s vision from an eclectic, neo-Classical style first to Art Deco and then to Modernism. Hudec’s transition to Art Deco helped his buildings capture the excitement, promise and glamor of Shanghai’s golden age of prosperity. Hudec was one of the most interesting and culturally astute architects of the early 20th century, bridging the gap between European architecture and Chinese culture. His commercial, residential and religious buildings are especially noteworthy given that many are still in use today in their original function.

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