The Bund that could have been

Toward the year 1935 there was much optimism regarding the growth of Shanghai real estate, but the proposals for the future development of the Bund sometimes fell into the category "thank god these were never built".

Here is a project of an enormous high-rise between Fuzhou Road 福州路 and Yuanfang Lane 元芳弄, which would have called for the demolition of the former Great Northern Telegraph building from 1908 (7 on the Bund 外滩7号) and the China Merchants Bank (9 on the Bund 外滩9号). The latter banking group were, in fact, pushing for this redevelopment plan, but it did not materialize and we still have both old buildings.

Image: Building Shanghai

What we have:


This is what Minutti & Co. proposed to erect on the French Bund in 1931, across Rue du Consulat from the French Consulate:

Image: Shanghai Sunday Times, Dec 1931

We can only regret this plan did not go forward, although Minutti got to build the Messageries Maritimes several years later (on the far right of the modern image):


I already mentioned earlier (although I cannot find that entry) that the Bank of China 中国银行 was meant to be much taller than the Sassoon Building (Cathay Hotel), but the inflation and the preparations for the war clipped the resulting building. There is also a nice story about Victor Sassoonthe voicing his objections about the new building's height. Here is Palmer & Turner's original project, publicized in 1935:

Image: The Builder 建筑月刊, 1935

What we have instead:


The design of the Broadway Mansions 上海大厦, at the north end of the Bund, was initially quite different. Here is what the architect B. Fraser originally created for the Shanghai Land Investment Co. in 1931:

Image: North-China Sunday Times, Dec 1931

Let's enjoy it from another angle:

Image: Shanghai Sunday Times, Dec 1931

We can only congratulate ourselves that Fraser redrew the "squatting sumo wrestler" and went for a stepped facade, a lot more engaging visually. One of the factors for the change could have been the imperative to give the building a footprint resembling a combination of two lucky numbers "八" ("8"):

Image: avezink

Further to the north of the Bund, on Whangpoo Road, the Czech architect Hans Hajek proposed this tower:

Image: The Builder 建筑月刊, 1934

Hajek's skyscraper would have at least been funny, but what emerged there in the new century is plain boring:


If I think of other unrealized Bund buildings I'll add them here. In the meantime, here is what the Credit Foncier d'Extreme Orient proposed to put on Avenue Joffre (Middle Huaihai Road 淮海中路) in 1931, between today's South Xiangyang Road and Fumin Road:

Instead, that block has K-Wah Centre:

Image: MatchOffice


Bloody Saturday-themed shop window (1937)

In October 1937, a staff photographer for NCDN spotted this vitrine on Foochow (Fuzhou) Road: a miniature airplane dropping a bomb on a miniature warship. The war was in vogue, as the journalist concluded; even in the Settlements, the regular Japanese air raids of Chapei were perfectly visible. The vitrine might have also expressed a retroactive wish for better aiming on the part of the Chinese pilots, who failed to hit the Japanese battleship Izumo on August 14, unleashing a chain of tragic events known as the Bloody Saturday.

Daily raids of Chapei, captured from the International Settlement in October 1937. North-China Sunday News


Entrepreneurial Russian slumlords welcome refugees in Wayside (1939)

These "mobile homes" were found in Hongkew in January 1939. "Сдаются в аренду" and “招租.”

"A row of old bus bodies have been set up in an unoccupied lane off Ward Road, near Chusan Road, as prospective living quarters for new residents. Above may be seen two views of the strange "flats," which have been fitted out in part with bedding. The Russian who manages the "terrace" has put up a sign, in Russian and Chinese, announcing that a bus may be rented for $20 a month. There was no lighting or other facilities visible when the scene was visited late last week. Only the first "bungalow" showed signs of occupation, but with the present influx of refugees into the immediate neighborhood, it may be considered likely that tenants will soon be found. The brick houses on both sides of the bus were all badly damaged during the 1937 hostilities and are not fit for habitation."


Another one of Boris Krivoss' projects (1932)

I've already written about the Russian architect Boris Krivoss and his architectural legacy in Shanghai. Here is another feather in his cap – "California-style apartments built over a roadway on Route Tenant de la Tour" – the only problem is, I cannot find these buildings. Route Tenant de la Tour is now South Xiangyang Road 襄阳南路, but it does not seem to have anything exactly like this. I am finding similar buildings on streets around – Taiyuan Road, Yongjia Road, Yongkang Road, Wuxing Road... Sometimes the finished buildings can look quite different from the initial designs – but were these even built? All I know is that in July 1932 Krivoss returned from a cruise around the world and was rubbing his hands at the prospect of restoring the destroyed sections of the city (he meant Chapei, not the French Concession).

What also intrigues me is how presumed architectural influences are revised over time (like everything in history, really). Scalloped trims, twisted columns, arched entryways and decorative ventilation grills are now referred to as Spanish style 西班牙建筑风格, whereas in the 1930s, when these buildings were constructed, their architects were drawing inspiration from two American coasts – Florida and California. I once wrote about Miami Shores on Avenue Joffre (1930), and now we have California apartments on Route Tenant de la Tour – except, where are these apartments?


My only guess is that these two houses might have been at 300 Rue Frelupt, at the northwest corner of Route Dufour (建国西路300号), and they don't exist anymore, having been replaced with a high-rise (link). The problem with this address is that it always housed one of the branches of the tea chain Wang Yue Tai, 汪裕泰...


Introducing Ilarion Tomashevsky

Yongfu Road, near West Fuxing Road. The building on the left (No. 72) was designed by I. P. Tomashevsky, the one in the center (No. 70) – by A. V. Kooklin, and the one on the right (No. 69) – by N. Emanoff. Image source

Ever wanted to know who created those cute mini-apartments frequently found in the West French Concession? Often painted light-yellow, with strong art deco lines, portholes and minimalist ironwork? Many of them are the work of Ilarion Tomashevsky, a Russian architect active around the year 1940, who promoted the concept of "midget apartments." They were described as "not exceeding four stories in height, walk-up type, the remarkable feature being the very economical and sometimes ingenious planning to suit the small lots they are situated on." Tomashevsky's "midget apartments" are now found on Yongfu Road, West Fuxing Road, Kangping Road, Wukang Road and Taiyuan Road.

You can read Tomashevsky's bio and see his work at Building Russian Shanghai.

The lot where Delastre Apartments was built, at today's 238 Taiyuan Road 太原路238号.

Attention, experts! Help me confirm the existence of this villa on Wukang Road, also designed by Tomashevsky:

Its description in 1941 was as follows:

"Modern in every respect, the residence possesses many attractive features, which the architect conceived to make it a most comfortable place of habitation for the owner. Having a wide southern exposure, the houses faces a spacious garden and is approached by a concrete driveway running at the side of one of the boundaries of the site. In the centre of the ground floor opening on to a quarry tile paved terrace is located the main living room. Of very generous dimensions, this room is designed on conservative modern lines and is ingeniously illuminated in the evening by concealed lighting. An attractive fireplace of black and bottoccino marble and a recessed bar are the main features of this room. Over the fireplace is located a large mural with a modern motif, one of the several in this residence executed by the well-known Russian artist V. Podgoursky.
Connected with the living room by a wide archway and located on a somewhat higher level, is the dining room. The walls of this room are panelled the full height with Australian walnut. The floors of both rooms are parquet of Japanese peach wood. The study, located at the north-east corner of the house, is designed in dignified old English style, with a low panelling, heavy wood ceiling beams and a Tudor fireplace built of artificial stone. Built-in book cases of design to match the room line the walls and a mural painting depicting a rural English landscape are additional features in this room. A mosaic-paved sun-porch with a large corner window occupies the southeast corner of the house. In addition to these rooms on the ground floor, there is a large kitchen and pantry with built-in furniture, and the usual lavatories, boiler room, etc., together with a double garage.
The upper floor is reached by a well-lit circular stairway and consists of of four main bedrooms, two bathrooms and a servants'' wing. The bathrooms are equipped with imported American coloured sanitary fixtures and are finished off in harmonizing high grade terrazzo. All bedrooms possess roomy well-equipped wall closets. In addition to all these modern conveniences, the residence is equipped with an air-conditioning and air-heating system of the latest design."


Architect Hans Hajek (H. J. Hajek)

I'm still looking for more info on this Czech architect – Hans J. Hajek 海傑克 – and thus far we know:
He practiced in Shanghai from the mid-1930s onward, starting at the Universal Building & Engineering Co, and then branching out on his own.
His office was always located in the Associate Mission Building, at 169 Yuen Ming Yuen Road.
Hajek taught western architectural history at St. John's University in the 1940s and 1950s.
He was still lingering in Shanghai as late as 1957...

But honestly – which of his buildings do you wish to have been realised?

Proposed Pere Robert Apartments, 1934:

Proposed office building for Whangpoo Road, 1934:

Plan for the "Central Building" on Nanking Road, 1935:

Proposed design of the Racecourse Apartments, end of 1935:

These proposals were also published in 1935:

(note the different Chinese spelling of his name, 海其渴)

He got a commission to design a cluster of villas on Columbia Road, west of the French Concession, at the end of 1935:

This villa on Hongqiao Road is also his creation of 1935:

Here is a letter sent to Sweden in 1957, from "海傑克 Professor Architect Dipl. Eng. Hans J. Hajek, B.A., M.B., C.E., M.A.A.S., 169 Yuen Ming Yuen Road, Shanghai, China":

Image: ebay