The French Concession, Shanghai, China (2019)

Fuxing Park, laid out by the French in 1909 in the French Concession, was originally a private garden in the Ming Dynasty and is now accessible to all residents and visitors in Shanghai, China

Fuxing Park, laid out by the French in 1909 in the French Concession, was originally a private garden in the Ming Dynasty and is now accessible to all residents and visitors, providing a quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of busy Shanghai, China; the plane trees (genus Platanus) are the same as those in the tree-line streets of Aix-en-Provence, France, except these trees all came from a southern province of China

 

In order to gain better insights into the historically designated French Concession (French: Concession française de Changhaï; Chinese:上海法租界) district of Shanghai (that we have visited several times on previous trips), we decided to book a tour through Context Travel Tours and had some friends join us.  Our guide informed us that the former French Concession was once the stomping ground for the radicals, writers, prostitutes, and pimps in Shanghai.  Although officially controlled by the French in the 1920s and 30s, renowned gangster and drug lord Du Yuesheng called the shots for a substantial period.  The green and leafy neighborhood was sometimes dubbed the “Paris of the East”.

 

“For much of the 20th century, the area covered by the former French Concession remained the premier residential and retail district of Shanghai, and was also one of the centres of Catholicism in China.  Despite re-development over the last few decades, the area retains a distinct character and is a popular tourist destination.” – Wikipedia

 

“The French Concession is the area of Shanghai once designated for the French, consisting of today’s Luwan and Xuhui Districts.  Luwan’s Huaihai Road is a busy shopping street and is also home to both Xintiandi and Tian Zi Fang, extremely popular shopping and dining spots for tourists.  Xuhui is also ever popular for tourists and is home to Shanghai Stadium.  The tree-lined avenues and their many Tudor mansions in the area still retain an air of the “Paris of the East”.” – www.wikitravel.org

 

We were grateful to our young guide for sharing of so much “life behind the scenes” that had been experienced and learned during time living in Shanghai.  Our afternoon tour began in Fuxing Park, a European-style park laid out by the French in 1909, then the largest park in Shanghai.  The park was originally a private garden belonging to the Gu Family during the Ming Dynasty and is now accessible to all residents and visitors, providing a quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of busy Shanghai.

 

Some of the magnificent gardens in the public Fuxing Park in the French Concession, Shanghai, China

Some of the magnificent gardens in the public Fuxing Park in the French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

College Francais, built in the French Renaissance style with Art Nouveau decoration, functioned as the first French Club in the French Concession, Shanghai, China; it is now operated by the Chinese government as a science institute

College Francais, built in the French Renaissance style with Art Nouveau decoration, functioned as the first French Club in the French Concession, Shanghai, China; it is now operated by the Chinese government as a science institute

 

An interior view of College Francais, built in the French Renaissance style with Art Nouveau decoration, in the French Concession, Shanghai, China

An interior view of College Francais, built in the French Renaissance style with Art Nouveau decoration, in the French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

A private sign that was interesting for both its message and its age (1988), French Concession, Shanghai, China

A private sign that was interesting for both its message and its age (1988), French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

A typical former private “mansion” home, now with retail stores on the street level and apartments above, in the French Concession, Shanghai, China

A typical former private “mansion” home, now with retail stores on the street level and apartments above, in the French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

This former private “mansion” home was seized, along with virtually all private property in Shanghai, by the Communist government in 1951 and carved up – each room was assigned to a family, French Concession, Shanghai, China

This former private “mansion” home was seized, along with virtually all private property in Shanghai, by the Communist government in 1951 and carved up – each room was assigned to a family, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

The typical rent for a room in the building [pictured above] today is about 30 to 35 Chinese Yuan (Renminbi), equivalent to US$4.25 to US$5.00 per month (for a family).  Note that the rooms have neither a bathroom nor a kitchen.  The residents use commodes for toilets (either in their rooms or in a common space in the building).  The communal “kitchen” area might be outside (in the back), on a terrace, or, occasionally, in a dedicated room in the building.  The typical low-end worker’s monthly salary in Shanghai is about 2,000 Chinese Yuan (Renminbi), equivalent to almost US$300.  Thus, rent for one of the government owned “apartments” (rooms) in Shanghai is a fraction of a low-end worker’s monthly income.  It is also important to note that with a population of 24 million people, we were told that more than half of the population of Shanghai still lives in government owned “apartments” (of varying sizes, but the “room” arrangement, pictured above” is quite prevalent).

 

St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, designed by Alexander Yaron Architects, was built in 1932-1934, French Concession, Shanghai, China

St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, designed by Alexander Yaron Architects, was built in 1932-1934, French Concession, Shanghai, China; the roots of the French Concession are heavily entwined with Russian heritage, as Shanghai became home to many Russian expatriates following the Bolshevik revolution, with the area around Avenue Joffre known as “Little Moscow”

 

The former detached garden house of Soung Haung Chaug built in the 1920s with a masonry-timber structure; since April 2005 it has been the Han Yuan Mandarin School, French Concession, Shanghai, China

The former detached garden house of Soung Haung Chaug built in the 1920s with a masonry-timber structure; since April 2005 it has been the Han Yuan Mandarin School, French Concession, Shanghai, China; the front terrace café is presently a spot “where local Chinese and foreign friends can communicate and interact”

 

This sign, ubiquitous throughout Shanghai (and China, generally) lists the twelve key principles of the Chinese Communist Party; French Concession, Shanghai, China

This sign, ubiquitous throughout Shanghai (and China, generally) lists the twelve key principles of the Chinese Communist Party; French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

The 12 values of the Chinese Communist Party, written in 24 Chinese characters are the national values of “prosperity”, “democracy”, “civility” and “harmony”; the social values of “freedom”, “equality”, “justice” and the “rule of law”; and the individual values of “patriotism”, “dedication”, “integrity” and “friendship”.

 

An interesting street in the French Concession, Shanghai, China – the formerly private “mansion” homes on the left are now, again, individually privately owned by large companies, whereas the nearly identical buildings on the right are govermnt owned

An interesting street in the French Concession, Shanghai, China – the formerly private “mansion” homes on the left are now, again, individually privately owned by large companies, whereas the nearly identical buildings on the right side are owned by the government and were carved up into individual room “apartments” (as discussed above)

 

This company-owned private home (with a Bentley in the driveway) cost around US$25 million to purchase (before renovations), along with a commitment by the new owner of the house to provide lifetime free rentals elsewhere in Shanghai

This company-owned private home (with a Bentley in the driveway) cost around US$25 million to purchase (before renovations), along with a commitment by the new owner of the house to provide lifetime free rentals elsewhere in Shanghai to the former individual room “apartment” occupants; French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

A very high-quality tea shop in the French Concession, Shanghai, China, where we bought some special Chinese teas to take home

A very high-quality tea shop in the French Concession, Shanghai, China, where we bought some special Chinese teas to take home

 

Typical low-rise early 20th century apartment buildings in the French Concession, Shanghai, China, flanked in the distance (outside the French Concession) by tall modern (21st century) high-rise apartment buildings

Typical low-rise early 20th century apartment buildings in the French Concession, Shanghai, China, flanked in the distance (outside the French Concession) by tall modern (21st century) high-rise apartment buildings

 

The Art Deco Cathay movie theatre in the French Concession, Shanghai, China

The Art Deco Cathay movie theatre in the French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Recently added to street crossings in Shanghai are cameras and vertical video displays (pictured) that, from the bottom, show the pedestrian crossing, four recent jaywalkers singled out, and, at the top, an enlargement of one of the jaywalkers

Recently added to street crossings in Shanghai are cameras and vertical video displays (pictured) that, from the bottom, show the pedestrian crossing, four recent jaywalkers singled out, and, at the top, an enlargement of one of the jaywalkers; French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Exterior of the entrance to the Former French Club, opened in 1926 (now the Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai), French Concession, Shanghai, China

The exterior of the entrance to the Former French Club, opened in 1926 (now the Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai), French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

The Art Deco second floor lobby of the Former French Club (now the Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai), French Concession, Shanghai, China, leading to the Art Deco ballroom

The Art Deco second floor lobby of the Former French Club (now the Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai), French Concession, Shanghai, China, leading to the Art Deco ballroom

 

Details of columns (nudes) in the Art Deco second floor lobby of the Former French Club (now the Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai), French Concession, Shanghai, China; note that these sculptures were NOT destroyed during the Cultural Revolution

Details of columns (nudes) in the Art Deco second floor lobby of the Former French Club (now the Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai), French Concession, Shanghai, China; note that these sculptures were NOT destroyed during the Cultural Revolution — formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution — (1966-1976) because an enterprising worker erected plywood “covers” around all the columns to hide the art

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.
 

The Peace Hotel (Sassoon House), Shanghai, China (2019)

In Shanghai, China, at the center of the Bund (at the end of Nanjing Road), today’s remodeled and restored Fairmont Peace Hotel was originally the Cathay Hotel in the Sassoon House, built by Sir Victor Sassoon in 1929

In Shanghai, China, at the center of the Bund (at the end of Nanjing Road), today’s remodeled and restored Art Deco Fairmont Peace Hotel was originally the Cathay Hotel in the Sassoon House, built by Sir Victor Sassoon in 1929

 

“The Cathay Hotel was designed by the architectural firm Palmer and Turner and completed in 1929 and was the pride of its owner, Sir Victor Sassoon.  It has a triangular shaped piece of land at the intersection of Nanking Road and the Bund, with a green pyramidal tower with Tudor paneling, imitating the American Chicago School.  The Cathay Hotel was only one portion of the Sassoon House, which also contained offices and shopping arcades.  Nowadays it known as [the Fairmont] Peace Hotel.” — http://www.virtualshanghai.net

 

The lobby of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains a central atrium leading to the famed restaurant and world-famous Old Jazz Band venue (the Jazz Bar), Shanghai, China_

The lobby of the Art Deco Fairmont Peace Hotel contains a central atrium leading to the famed restaurant and world-famous Old Jazz Band venue (the Jazz Bar), Shanghai, China – this was one of the preeminent dining and entertainment venues in the 1920s and 1930s when Shanghai was famed as the Paris of the Orient

 

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “frescoes” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one depicts buildings along the Bund (looking south) with boats approaching the quay

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “murals” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one depicts buildings along the Bund (looking south) with boats approaching the quay

 

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “frescoes” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one also depicts buildings along the Bund, but a street scene (looking north) with automobiles from the 1920s

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “murals” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one also depicts buildings along the Bund, but a street scene (looking north) with automobiles from the 1920s in the foreground and the quay to the far right

 

We had an outstanding dim sum and Chinese cuisine luncheon at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

We had an outstanding dim sum and Chinese cuisine luncheon at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The eponymous Dragon and Phoenix in the ceiling panels at the at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

The eponymous Dragon and Phoenix in the ceiling panels at the at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The view of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, across the Huangpu River, from the windows in the Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

The view of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, across the Huangpu River, from the windows in the Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The Fairmont Peace Hotel is the best spot we’ve discovered in Shanghai (on the west side of the Huangpu River) for a view of the curved section of Pudong and its concentration of high-rise buildings; China

The Fairmont Peace Hotel is the best spot we’ve discovered in Shanghai (on the west side of the Huangpu River) for a view of the curved section of Pudong and its concentration of high-rise buildings; China

 

A panorama of the Huangpu River with our ship docked at the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal (on the left) and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong, Shanghai, China

A panorama of the Huangpu River with our ship docked at the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal (on the left) and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong, Shanghai, China — taken from the Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The living green vertical wall along the quay of the Huangpu River on the Bund side, overlooking the tops of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, Shanghai, China

The living green vertical wall along the quay of the Huangpu River on the Bund side, overlooking the tops of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, Shanghai, China

 

The promenade along the quay on the Bund (looking north) along the Huangpu River, with our docked ship visible on the right; Shanghai, China

The promenade along the quay on the Bund (looking north) along the Huangpu River, with our docked ship visible on the right; Shanghai, China

 

 

“The Man Who Changed the Face of Shanghai” by Taras Grescoe, The New York Times, October 2, 2014

 

“Until recently, the name Sassoon — or, more exactly, Sir Ellice Victor Sassoon, the third baronet of Bombay — had been all but effaced from the streets of Shanghai.  The scion of a Baghdadi Jewish family, educated at Harrow and Cambridge, Sassoon shifted the headquarters of a family empire built on opium and cotton from Bombay to Shanghai, initiating the real estate boom that would make it into the Paris of the Far East.

“The 1929 opening of the Cathay Hotel (its name was changed to the Peace in the mid-50s), heralded as the most luxurious hostelry east of the Suez Canal, proclaimed his commitment to China.  (He even made the 11th-floor penthouse, just below the hotel’s sharply pitched pyramidal roof, his downtown pied-à-terre.)  Within a decade, Sassoon had utterly transformed the skyline of Shanghai, working with architects and developers to build the first true skyscrapers in the Eastern Hemisphere, in the process creating a real estate empire that would regularly see him counted among the world’s half-dozen richest men.  Within two decades, the red flag of the People’s Republic was hoisted over the Cathay, which would for many years serve as a guesthouse for visiting Soviet bloc dignitaries.

“Yet, over the course of the years, Sassoon’s buildings, apparently too solid to demolish, continued to stand, so many mysterious Art Deco and Streamline Moderne megaliths in a cityscape growing ever grimier with coal dust.  As Shanghai once again takes its place as one of Asia’s fastest-growing metropolises, and supertall, 100-plus-story towers define its new skyline, there are signs that the city is beginning to value, and even treasure, its prewar architectural heritage.  Sir Victor would have appreciated the irony: The landmarks of Shanghai’s semi-colonial past, vestiges of a once-reviled foreign occupation, have lately become some of its most coveted addresses.

“The last time I was in Shanghai, in 2007, the Peace Hotel was in a sorry state.  In the Jazz Bar, whose faux Tudor walls seemed to be stained yellow with the nicotine of decades, I watched a sextet of septuagenarian Chinese jazzmen lurching their way through “Begin the Beguine.”  (The musicians, who rehearsed clandestinely through the Cultural Revolution, are still sometimes joined by their oldest member, a 96-year-old drummer.)

“I was given a tour of the property by Peter Hibbard, an author whose books ‘Peace at the Cathay’and ‘The Bund’ document Shanghai’s European architectural history.  He showed me tantalizing glimpses of marble and stained glass, partly hidden by poorly dropped ceilings, and explained that the lavish décor of the eighth-floor restaurant — inspired by the Temple of Heaven in Beijing’s Forbidden City — had to be papered over during the Cultural Revolution to spare it the wrath of the Red Guards.  Hidden away in storerooms, he assured me, were the original Arts and Crafts furniture and Deco glasswork that had been a feature of every guest room.  Mr. Hibbard informed me the hotel was about to close its doors for a complete makeover; he feared the worst.

“After a three-year restoration overseen by the lead architect Tang Yu En (and a makeover supervised by the Singapore-based designer Ian Carr, completed in 2010), much of the cachet of the old Cathay has been restored to the Peace.

“On the ceiling of the Dragon Phoenix Restaurant, gilded chinoiserie bats once again soar; Lalique sconces have been returned to the corridor that leads to the eighth-floor ballroom. In nine themed suites, the décor has been recreated from old photos:  The Indian Room is newly resplendent with filigreed plasterwork and peacock-hued cupolas, while a semicircular moon gate separates the sitting and dining rooms of the Chinese Room.  A spectacular rotunda has once again become the centerpiece of the ground floor, its soaring ceiling of leaded glass undergirded by marble reliefs of stylized greyhounds that remain the hotel’s insignia.

“Some changes would surely have caused Sassoon to arch an eyebrow.  To avoid spooking visitors from the south, elevators now skip directly from the third to the fifth floor. (The number 4 sounds like the Cantonese word for “death.”)  The revolving door on the riverfront Bund, once the privileged entrance for such celebrity visitors as Douglas Fairbanks and Cornelius Vanderbilt, is now chained shut with a rusty padlock.  (It is bad feng shui for a building’s main door to face water.)

“In spite of such adjustments, Mr. Hibbard is delighted to see Sassoon’s flagship property reclaiming pride of place on the Bund.  “Sir Victor changed the face, and the manners, of Shanghai,” he said.  ‘The Cathay exemplified this.  Outside, it’s so simple, clean and streamlined. Inside, it’s fanciful and buoyant.  It gave society a venue to play in. It still gives people from around the globe an opportunity to have a fantastic time in one of the world’s most exciting cities.’

“The building has something else going for it: location.  Sassoon built his headquarters where bustling Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s main commercial street, intersected with the banks, clubs and head offices of foreign firms that lined the Huangpu riverfront.  The hotel, in other words, sits at the exact point where China meets the world — which means that, to this day (and well into most nights), it is buffeted by concentrated streams of humanity.

“I was not surprised that Noël Coward found the serenity to write the first draft of ‘Private Lives’ during a four-day sojourn at the Cathay in 1929, or that Sassoon, a nomadic tycoon who could live anywhere in the world, chose it as the site for his aerie.  The sensation of being swaddled in luxury at the calm center of a bewitching maelstrom is unique.  After building the Cathay, all Sassoon had to do was sit and wait for the world to come to him.” – www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/travel/the-man-who-changed-the-face-of-shanghai-.html

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Napier (Art Deco Festival), New Zealand

napier-new-zealand-is-now-well-known-for-having-preserved-its-wealth-of-art-deco-buildings-mostly-constructed-in-1931-1932-after-the-devastating-1931-earthquake-and-fire

Napier, New Zealand, is now well known for having preserved its wealth of Art Deco buildings, mostly constructed in 1931-1932, after the devastating 1931 earthquake and fire; the city hosts a huge Art Deco Festival and weekend each February (this year it was a few days after our visit)

 

It was the devastation of a 1931 earthquake and the subsequent rebuilding from scratch that made Napier, New Zealand, the “Art Deco Capital of the World” — to this day representing the most complete and significant group of art deco buildings found anywhere.  The population of Napier is around 60,000, with the broader Napier-Hastings-Havlock North region totaling about 130,000 people, making it the sixth largest urban area in New Zealand.  “Napier is the nexus of the largest wool centre in the Southern Hemisphere, and it has the primary export seaport for northeastern New Zealand – which is the largest producer of apples, pears, and stone fruit in New Zealand. Napier has also become an important grape and wine production area, with the grapes grown around Hastings and Napier being sent through the Port of Napier for export.  Large amounts of sheep’s wool, frozen meat, wood pulp, and timber also pass through Napier annually for export.” – Wikipedia

 

the-new-napier-arch-is-a-portal-to-the-walkway-along-the-breakfront-constructed-after-the-1931-earth-along-the-waterfront-and-beach-napier-new-zealand

The “New Napier Arch” is a portal to the walkway along the breakfront constructed after the 1931 earth along the waterfront and beach, Napier, New Zealand

 

the-t-g-building-atkin-mitchell-wellington-1936-is-the-tallest-building-in-napier-with-the-auckland-savings-bank-asb-is-in-the-foreground-napier-new-zealand

The T & G Building (Atkin & Mitchell, Wellington, 1936) is the tallest building in Napier; the Auckland Savings Bank (ASB) is in the foreground, Napier, New Zealand

 

With some friends from California who were also traveling in New Zealand, we booked a guide from the Art Deco Trust center for a two hour walking tour around town and a viewing of an informative movie made by the Trust about the 1931 earthquake, its aftermath and the incredible rebuilding of the city.  We were reminded a lot of the current preservation efforts in South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida, USA to restore and preserve many of the Art Deco gems in that region. [See our blog posts from 2015, “Art Deco Walk in the South Beach District of Miami Beach, Florida, USA” and “Art Deco collection at The Wolfsonian (Florida International University), South Beach District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA”.]

 

details-of-the-asb-bank-building-that-features-maori-koru-and-zigzags-napier-new-zealand

Details of the ASB bank building that features Maori koru and zigzags, Napier, New Zealand

 

the-interior-of-the-two-story-asb-bank-building-with-interior-glass-and-paneling-under-roof-skylights-that-was-a-very-advanced-design-for-bringing-in-natural-light-to-an-interior-office-work-environme

The interior of the two-story ASB bank building with interior glass and paneling under roof skylights that was a very advanced design for bringing in natural light to an interior office/work environment, Napier, New Zealand

 

an-interior-glass-panel-in-the-criterion-hotel-which-has-some-moorish-influences-along-with-the-art-deco-overall-design-napier-new-zealand

An interior glass panel in the Criterion Hotel (which has some Moorish influences along with the Art Deco overall design), Napier, New Zealand

 

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Details of second story windows, Napier, New Zealand

 

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Street level leaded glass designs above the door of a jewelry shop, Napier, New Zealand

 

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Intricate Art Deco designs above the columns and windows, Napier, New Zealand

 

one-of-the-main-shopping-streets-in-downtown-napier-new-zealand-where-the-height-limit-of-two-stories-was-observed-in-the-rebuilding-that-began-in-1931-1932

One of the main shopping streets in downtown Napier, New Zealand, where the height limit of two stories was observed in the rebuilding that began in 1931-1932

 

The Napier website has a good description how the beautifully preserved Art Deco architecture became the city’s special point of difference.  “A national disaster resulted in Napier becoming one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world.  On the morning of February 3rd 1931 a massive earthquake – 7.9 on the Richter scale – rocked Hawke’s Bay for more than three minutes.  Nearly 260 lives were lost and the vast majority of buildings in the commercial centre of Napier were destroyed, either by the quake itself or the fires that followed.  Rebuilding began almost immediately, and much of it was completed in two years.  New buildings reflected the architectural styles of the times – Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and Art Deco.  Local architect Louis Hay, an admirer of the great Frank Lloyd Wright, had his chance to shine.  Maori motifs were employed to give the city a unique New Zealand character – for example, the ASB bank on the corner of Hastings and Emerson Streets features Maori koru and zigzags.   Napier’s city centre has the feeling of a time capsule – the seamless line of 1930s architecture is quite extraordinary.” – http://www.newzealand.com

 

beautiful-stained-glass-above-the-door-and-windows-of-a-shop-in-napier-new-zealand

Beautiful stained glass above the door and windows of a shop in Napier, New Zealand

 

the-classically-art-deco-auditorium-center-light-in-the-napier-municipal-theater-building-napier-new-zealand

The classically Art Deco auditorium center light in the Napier municipal theater building, Napier, New Zealand

 

a-classical-well-preserved-art-deco-office-interior-napier-new-zealand-somewhat-reminiscent-of-some-frank-lloyd-wright-designs-in-the-united-states-of-america

A classical, well-preserved Art Deco office interior, Napier, New Zealand; somewhat reminiscent of some Frank Lloyd Wright designs in the United States of America

 

the-daily-telegraph-building-features-many-different-art-deco-design-motifs-including-a-ziggurat-aesthetic-and-trompe-loeil-details-napier-new-zealand

The Daily Telegraph building features many different Art Deco design motifs, including a ziggurat aesthetic and trompe-l’oeil details, Napier, New Zealand

 

towards-the-end-of-our-guided-walking-tour-we-visited-the-napier-cathedral-with-its-beautiful-stained-glass-windows-napier-new-zealand-this-panel-has-a-poignant-invocation-for-our-times

Towards the end of our guided walking tour we visited the Napier Cathedral with its beautiful stained glass windows, Napier, New Zealand; this panel has a poignant invocation for our times: “LOVE ONE ANOTHER”

 

Art Deco collection at The Wolfsonian (Florida International University), South Beach District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Exterior Art Deco facade of the Wolfsonian-FIU in South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Exterior Art Deco facade of the Wolfsonian-FIU in South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

The Wolfsonian (museum) — affiliated with Florida International University — is located at 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach (in the South Beach District), Florida, USA.   Formerly a storage facility, it was designed by Robertson and Patterson in 1927, with two stories added in 1936 by Robert Little.  It was converted to a museum between 1987 and 1993 by Mark Hampton.  Although the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum of Decorative and Propaganda Arts is housed in a Mediterranean-style storage facility, its period (1885-1945) encompasses and illustrates the emergence of Modernity.  The notes on the artifacts in the collection, below, are from the museum’s wall panels and other explanatory materials.

Entry art display -- "(Lo & Behold)(Mira & Ve)", 2006, by Lawrence Weiner (American, b. 1942) at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Entry art display — “(Lo & Behold)(Mira & Ve)”, 2006, by Lawrence Weiner (American, b. 1942) at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

The collection is epitomized by the 1929 Art Deco movie theater marquee from Norristown, Pennsylvania, at the rear of the entry hall.  Produced as part of a larger site-specific installation for Art Basel — Miami Beach 2006, this piece, like much of Weiner’s oeuvre, is grounded in language and a mix of common signs.  The result is a simple structure put before The Wolfsonian public to elicit the response  (Lo & Behold) (Mira & Ve).  Its presentation in both English and Spanish is in recognition of Miami’s diverse culture and its large Hispanic community.

Sculpture, "Wrestler", 1929, by Dudley Vaill Talcot (American, 1899 - 1986) at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Sculpture, “Wrestler”, 1929, by Dudley Vaill Talcot (American, 1899 – 1986) at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

The sculpture, “Wrestler”, was shown at the Tenth Olympic Games, Los Angeles, California, 1932.  Made out of aluminum, it was part of the Mitchel Wolfson, Jr. Collection.

Panels, "La Chasse [The Hunt]", 1935 by Jean Dunand (Swiss, 1877 - 1942, designer; Lacquer, gold leaf, paint, plaster; at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Panels, “La Chasse [The Hunt]”, 1935 by Jean Dunand (Swiss, 1877 – 1942, designer; Lacquer, gold leaf, paint, plaster; at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

The museum’s collection of Art Deco art and artifacts is presented on the second floor.  The introduction notes:  “Profound social and technological changes resonated throughout the modern age — from the height of the Industrial evolution to the end of the Second World War and its immediate aftermath.  Industrialization, urbanization, mass production, and new transportation and communication systems revolutionized he human environment.  The works on display in these galleries reveal how people living in this tumultous period viewed the world and their place in it. 

“Culled from our collection are approximately three hundred American and European artifacts from the late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries in a variety of formats, ranging from books, posters, and postcards to decorative arts, architectural models, paintings, and sculptures.  By presenting these works within their historical contexts, we aim to elaborate the many conditions — technological, aesthetic, social, political, and economic — that impacted and, in turn, were impacted by their production.” 

Regarding the Panels, “La Chasse [The Hunt]” (see the above photograph), the curator notes:  “When launched in 1935, the SS Normandie was considered the world’s largest, fastest, and most luxurious ocean liner.  The ship featured the works of some of the most respected French artists and designers of this period.  The first-class smoking room included Jean Dunand’s mural Man’s Games and Pleasures, showing assorted scenes of masculine recreation such as the hunt depicted in these panels.  Dunand’s unique choice of materials and techniques — carved, lacquered, and gilded plaster — was inspired by Japanese lacquer work and Egyptian gold-leaf bas-relief (particularly as found in King Tutankhamen’s recently excavated tomb).  After the Normandie commission, Dunand sold limited editions of his maquettes as well as larger versions like these two produced for Madame Chadwick.”  [Note: only one of The Wolfsonian’s two panels on display is shown, above.]

Secretary, 1901, For "The Officers's Ideal Quarters", 1901 London Earl's Court Military Exhibition, Harry Napper (British, 1860 - 1930), designer, at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Secretary, 1901, For “The Officers’s Ideal Quarters”, 1901 London Earl’s Court Military Exhibition, Harry Napper (British, 1860 – 1930), designer, at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Promotional poster for the Chicago World's Fair, 1933, at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Promotional poster for the Chicago World’s Fair, 1933, at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

“All the World’s a Fair” — World’s fairs and other national and international expositions offer a view into the cultural, political, and economic interests of the modern age.  Participating organizations constructed pavilions and exhibition halls devoted to agriculture, horticulture, transportation, manufacturing, and the liberal arts.  Governments and corporations alike used the occasion to present the richness of their achievements in art, architecture, and industry.  Displays at these enormously popular events provided visitors their first contact with major technological innovations, including automobiles, typewriters, airships, telephones, electricity, and synthetic materials.  Tourism and merchandising advanced the scope of a growing commercial culture, as did the sale of the manufactured goods on display.

Model, Theme Center -- New York World's Fair - 1939, c. 1938, by Wallace K. Harrison (American, 1895 - 1981) and Jacques Andre Fouilhoux (French, 1879 - 1945) of Harrison & Fouilhoux, NYC, architects, at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Model, Theme Center — New York World’s Fair – 1939, c. 1938, by Wallace K. Harrison (American, 1895 – 1981) and Jacques Andre Fouilhoux (French, 1879 – 1945) of Harrison & Fouilhoux, NYC, architects, at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Coffee Pitcher, American Modern, late 1930s, at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Coffee Pitcher, American Modern, late 1930s, at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

New ideas and attitudes about health, hygiene, and efficiency in the home emerged in the first half of the twentieth century.  The knowledge that micro-organisms cause infectious diseases led to reforms in public health policies at the end of the nineteenth century as well as growing concerns about domestic cleanliness.  Several world events also contributed to a demand for cleaner and more efficient environments and products: the 1918 influenza epidemic that killed over 20 million people; the commitment to reconstruct major areas of Europe following the destruction wrought by the First World War; and later, the economic depresisson of the 1930s. 

Designers responded to these conditions by creating labor saving and easily maintained interiors, furniture, and appliances.  Advertisers promoted new products with images and slogans that held out the promise of a healthier home and pledged to make the drudgery of household chores a thing of the past — guarantees made increasingly possible by the growth of electrical power networks.

Dinnerware, American Modern, 1939 - 1959 (designed 1937) by Russel Wright (American, 1904 - 1976), designer, Steubenville Pottery, Ohio, Glazed earthenware, at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Dinnerware, American Modern, 1939 – 1959 (designed 1937) by Russel Wright (American, 1904 – 1976), designer, Steubenville Pottery, Ohio, Glazed earthenware, at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Joining modern design principles with historical awareness, designer Carl Malmsten advocated for the creation of furniture marked by quality craftsmanship and materials, both of which are evident in the exotic wood inlays of the chest (pictured below).  The form itself is highly functional, while the intricat pattern pays deference to 18th century Swedish decorative traditions.

Chest, c. 1925, Carl Malmsten (Swedish, 1888 - 1972) Sweden, Inlaid wood, bronze; at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Chest, c. 1925, Carl Malmsten (Swedish, 1888 – 1972) Sweden, Inlaid wood, bronze; at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

The prosperous 1920s witnessed a huge building boom that changed the face of many American cities.  For the architectural firm Schultze and Weaver this boom provided commissions to design all sorts of buildings, especially hotels.  Schultze and Weave’rs chief designer, Lloyd Morgan, painted an imaginary skyline featuring all the firm’s buildings completed between 1921 and 1936.  Dominating the scene are three New York City hotels, the Pierre, the Waldorf-Astoria, and the Sherry-Netherland (from left to right).  Also featured are such South Florida landmarks as the Miami Biltmore, the Breakers, and the Miami Daily News and Metropolis Building (now the Freedom Tower), as well as two Miami Beach hotels, since demolished, the Roney Plaza and the Nautilus.  [Note: only the central portion of the very large painting is shown in the photograph below.]

Painting, "The Completed Buildings of Schultze and Weaver, Architects, 1921 - 1936", 1936, by Lloyd Morgan (American, 1892 - 1970), New York, Oil on canvas, at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Painting, “The Completed Buildings of Schultze and Weaver, Architects, 1921 – 1936”, 1936, by Lloyd Morgan (American, 1892 – 1970), New York, Oil on canvas, at the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

 

Art Deco Walk in the South Beach District of Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Logo of the Art Deco Museum (presented by the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL)), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Logo of the Art Deco Museum (presented by the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL)), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

One of the wonderful things our community at sea does is to bring aboard world experts who can lecture and/or lead tours, explorations, and expeditions as we circumnavigate the globe every two years.  Before sailing into Miami Beach we had a terrific illustrated slide lecture on the founding of Miami and the development of the city by Professor John Stuart of FIU (Florida International University), who is also a practicing architect. [The first land in Miami Beach was purchased in 1870; the city was chartered in 1915 and became a city in 1917, largely through the leadership of John Collins and his wife.  Development was rapid until the hurricane of 1926, with building and tourism picking up again in the mid-1930s.  Investors then constructed the mostly small-scale, stucco hotels and rooming houses, for seasonal rental, that comprise much of the present Art Deco historic district.] 

The focus of the lecture was on the Art Deco architecture which thrived there in the 1930s and early 1940s in what is now known as South Beach.  After we docked in Miami, we joined Professor Stuart on a bus ride to South Beach where we had a guided tour of the Art Deco district and then a guided tour of the Art Deco artifacts at The Wolfsonian (museum), detailed in our upcoming blog. 

South Beach has one of the world’s most concentrated collections of Art Deco buildings, many of which have been preserved and refurbished on the interior (landmark status — which many of the buildings have —  precludes any changes to buildings’ exteriors).

Essex House Hotel (1938), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Essex House Hotel (1938), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

The Essex House Hotel is a 1938 Streamline Moderne gem by Henry Hohauser and features a tour-de-force of Deco in the well-maintained lobby, featuring a cinematic mural by a self-taught artist.

Congress Hotel (one of five art deco buildings), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Congress Hotel (one of five art deco buildings), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Our guide, John Stuart, is Associate Dean for Cultural and Community Engagement, Director of Miami Beach Urban Studios, and Professor at Florida International University.  His most recent book, The New Deal in South Florida: Design, Policy and Community Building, 1933–1940 (Gainesville: The University Press of Florida, 2008) was co-edited with political scientist and FIU professor John Stack.

Leslie Hotel (1937), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Leslie Hotel (1937), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Professor Stuart also serves on the planning commission for Miami Beach and is intimately familiar with the renovation projects that have taken place and are in the planning stages for the area.  All-in-all, a terrific walk through architectural history with Miami’s most knowledgeable architect about the area  — educational and fun.

Exterior balconies of private residence, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Exterior balconies of private residence, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

United States Post Office (designed by Howard L. Cheney in 1937), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

United States Post Office (designed by Howard L. Cheney in 1937), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

South Beach’s Post Office, designed by Howard L. Cheney in 1937, reflects the austere, classically inspired institutional architecture popular in Europe in the late 1930s. 

United States Post Office lobby ceiling, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

United States Post Office lobby ceiling, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

The highlight of the interior is the mural by Charles Hardman depicting the meeting of the Spanish Conquistadors and the Native Americans, the two groups in battle, and the signing of a nominal treaty between the Native Americans and the U.S.

United States Post Office lobby interior featuring an historical mural and individual post office boxes, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

United States Post Office lobby interior featuring an historical mural and individual post office boxes, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

An early highrise, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

An early highrise, South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

The Taft Hotel is an Art Deco building designed by Henry Hohauser. It is located in Miami’s Art Deco District and is noted for its geometrical design. The Taft Hotel has the characteristic Art Deco tripartite symmetry, as well as abstract zigzag and curvilinear designs on the facade.

Taft Hotel (1936), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Taft Hotel (1936), South Beach Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA