Katya Knyazeva (avezink) wrote,
Katya Knyazeva

Bright Fraser, architect and artist

Our NETA ("Nobody Ever Talks About...") column features lesser-known, but important architects of Shanghai. Today we examine the career of Bright Fraser, whose singular achievement was the Broadway Mansions 上海大厦, on Shanghai's Bund. In spite of the weight of that project – literal and figurative – Fraser was not a one-trick pony. Denison touches on his career in Building Shanghai, and adds more details in Architecture and the Landscape of Modernity. Bright Fraser (1894–1974) graduated from the Liverpool University and "later became a student at London's first atelier of architecture." He "worked for Atkinson & Dallas before joining the Shanghai Land Investment in 1926, where he became chief architect." His biography on the Artefacts website mentions that Fraser left China in 1937 and settled in South Africa, where he continued practicing architecture.

So let's look at some Bright Fraser's projects in Shanghai.

During the year 1926, Shanghai Land Investment accomplished a massive construction scheme on Museum Road, erecting two commercial buildings – Lyceum Godown and Museum Godown. It is likely Fraser was not involved with the Lyceum Godown, because its design was published as early as January 1926, when Fraser might have not been with the company.

Museum Road Godown, however, could be his work; it was completed at the end of 1927. Too bad the building does not survive.

In March 1927, the company reported: "We have carried out considerable re-development on Hanbury Road Estate, Paoshan Estate, Chusan Road Estate and Dixwell Road Estate. No. 31 Peking Road is now being modernized and a new wing to the south side added. We are also building two new foreign houses, both of which are already booked, on a small portion of the Zang Pang Estate which was lying vacant and unproductive." It is most likely, Fraser was involved in all of these. The next year's projects in the northern district were disrupted by the armed hostilities of January 1928, but plans for the redesign of the Ben Building on Avenue Edward VII were approved.

The Pearce Apartments in Hongkew was designed by Fraser in 1928, built during 1929 and inaugurated in 1930. This is one of the few buildings in Shanghai that was painted and drawn more often than photographed. Fraser's penchant for art might be the explanation:

Ad from China Press, April 1930
[See more works by B. Fraser...]

Ad from North-China Sunday News, June 1930

In 1931, Fraser designed a complex of 20 villas with attached garages on Rue Ratard (now Julu Road 巨鹿路), near Route Courbet (now Fumin Road 富民路).

I already showed Fraser's early design of the Broadway Mansions that he created for the Shanghai Land Investment in 1931:

Image: North-China Sunday Times, Dec 1931

And here is a model:

Image: Shanghai Sunday Times, Dec 1931

Before the project went ahead, Fraser redesigned the building to achieve the look we enjoy today:

Image: Shanghai Sunday Times, Dec 1933

Here is a Fraser-designed villa in Columbia Circle, on Amherst Avenue (now Xinhua Road 新华路), built in 1932:

I'm still gathering data on his later projects before his departure in 1937.

Bright Fraser was an accomplished painter (which you can tell from his watercolor painting of the Broadway Mansions above). His works were displayed at local exhibitions, alongside those of other Shanghai architects, artists and sculptors, such as C. H. Gonda, K. H. Suhr, Sapajou and W. W. Wagstaff. Here are some of his paintings exhibited in the Shanghai Art Club, where he was a chairman and vice-president, in the 1930s:

Top image: Denison, Architecture and the Landscape of Modernity...

Previous issues of this column (which only now received its name) introduced Gabriel Rabinovich, Wladimir Livin-Goldenstaedt, Karsten Hermann Suhr, Ilarion Tomashevsky, Hans Hajek, Boris Krivoss and Isabella Karsnitsky. Future issues will introduce Paul Chelazzi, George Edward Koster, B. L. Matrai, Chiulin Shih, Hans Berents and Jones Architects, all of whom left their imprint on Shanghai.
Tags: architects, architecture, fraser, hongkou, investigation, museum road, neta, shanghai

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