Her­itage, his­tory, Hudec

New book com­mem­o­rates Shang­hai’s cel­e­brated for­eign ar­chi­tect

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Qi Xi­jia

Ladislav Hudec is a name that res­onates deeply in Shang­hai, as the build­ings he has con­structed in this city are im­printed in the mem­o­ries of gen­er­a­tions of na­tive Shang­hainese. They may have watched films with their first lover in Hudec’s Grand The­atre, given birth to their first child in his “Red House” hospi­tal or sim­ply “had their hats dropped” while look­ing up at the Park Ho­tel, once a record holder for the high­est con­struc­tion in Shang­hai, thanks to Hudec.

Nearly one hun­dred years ago, a young Hun­gar­ian-Slo­vak architecture grad­u­ate and new mil­i­tary re­cruit es­caped from a Rus­sian prison camp dur­ing World War I and, with a limp leg, found his way to Shang­hai. He never could have imag­ined that his ar­chi­tec­tural de­signs would be­come some of the city’s most iconic struc­tures. Dur­ing his time in Shang­hai, from 1918 to 1947, Hudec worked on more than 50 ar­chi­tec­tural projects in Shang­hai, span­ning over 100 build­ings, of which 31 have now been for­mally rec­og­nized as Shang­hai Her­itage Architecture.

Next year will be a mul­ti­ple an­niver­sary for Hudec: 100 years since he first ar­rived in Shang­hai, his 125th birth­day and the 60th an­niver­sary of his death. To pre­serve this her­itage and strengthen cul­tural roots be­tween Hun­gary and Shang­hai, the con­sulate of Hun­gary in Shang­hai along with Hun­gar­ian pho­tog­ra­pher Nicky Al­masy re­cently ini­ti­ated a pho­tog­ra­phy project of Hudec’s build­ings.

“Hudec con­tin­u­ously de­liv­ered high stan­dards dur­ing his stay in Shang­hai and re­lent­lessly looked for some­thing new and some­thing dif­fer­ent. That these build­ings en­dured through his­tory and that the level of qual­ity has never dropped is re­ally what grabs me,” Bolla Szi­lard, Con­sul Gen­eral of Hun­gary in Shang­hai, told the Global Times.

The Global Times re­cently in­ter­viewed Al­masy about this and other pho­tog­ra­phy projects in Shang­hai, where he has been based since 2006.

GT: What was your first en­counter with Hudec’s architecture?

Al­masy: I ar­rived in the city in 2006 and just started to shoot and doc­u­ment the city. Some­times it drew me to these par­tic­u­lar build­ings, like the Park Ho­tel and the Green House, but I didn’t know back then that it was

Hudec’s work. There’s a say­ing that be­hind ev­ery great build­ing there is a per­son. For me, all build­ings have a per­sonal his­tory be­hind it. I feel the per­son be­hind them. It’s re­ally hard for me to pin­point which build­ings I like most, but ev­ery build­ing is unique in its own way.

GT: Were there any spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ences while mak­ing this book that im­pressed you?

Al­masy: What made this project very spe­cial is that we went to places that no­body has pho­tographed be­fore. My most spe­cial mem­ory is get­ting into the Amer­i­can Club, which has been closed to the pub­lic for a cou­ple of decades. Every­thing was cov­ered in dust. We found old com­put­ers from the 1990s in one room. That was very spe­cial. The whole build­ing was dark from the in­side and the guards weren’t happy. We were al­ways rushed but this was very mem­o­rable.

GT: How have Hudec’s build­ings been pre­served?

Al­masy: Some of them are left in ru­ins but some are re­ally beau­ti­fully done. I think the build­ings with noth­ing old in­side are the worst. I was al­ways look­ing for Hudec’s re­mains to shoot and there’s not much re­ally. The Chris­tian Lit­er­a­ture So­ci­ety Build­ing, for ex­am­ple, is empty in­side, just like a shell, but at least it is still stand­ing. The Mar­garet

(Top left) Bolla Szi­lard, Con­sul Gen­eral of Hun­gary in Shang­hai, de­liv­ers a speech at the event. Book browsers at the event; A poster mem­o­riz­ing Ladislav Hudec; A book­let of the new photo al­bum Pho­tos: Cour­tesy of Con­sul Gen­eral of Hun­gary in Shang­hai and Qi Xi­jia/GT Wil­liamson Hospi­tal is still used but there’s noth­ing old in there. The Park Ho­tel is re­ally won­der­ful, like walk­ing into the 1930s.

GT: Have you spo­ken with any of the peo­ple liv­ing in Hudec’s build­ing? How did they re­act to your project?

Al­masy: I once talked to old lady liv­ing in a Hudec build­ing. I said “can we pho­to­graph your room” and she was like, “I have been liv­ing in this build­ing for a long time; why are you shoot­ing?” I said “it is a Hudec build­ing” and she said “I’m liv­ing in a Hudec build­ing?” She didn’t know but was so happy to find out that she’s liv­ing in a Hudec build­ing. So cute.

GT: Apart from the Hudec build­ings, are there any other build­ings that have left you with a deep im­pres­sion?

Al­masy: Yes, I was work­ing on the Shang­hai Tower for five years and I doc­u­mented the project since it was a hole in the ground. I ad­mire what’s hap­pen­ing in Pudong. It’s re­ally amaz­ing. But if I have to choose a side, I love the old side. I used to go to the build­ings be­hind Bei­jing Road and I used to talk to the lo­cals. It is so dif­fer­ent now. It’s re­ally heart­break­ing that old houses are be­ing knocked down, be­cause these places, the old build­ings and the old peo­ple, are re­ally the her­itage and heart of Shang­hai.

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