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Grand hotels evoke classic style

GRACING many city postcards, the Bund is an iconic landmark of Shanghai. A 1-kilometer waterfront, it is a testament to the "forced" opening up of this coastal town and an icon of Old Shanghai. But head west toward People's Square and you will find a different landscape. Instead of Neo Classical or Art Deco buildings, there are modern structures which hint at a distant Old China past.

People's Square is Shanghai's answer to Tiananmen Square in Beijing and provides an insight into this booming metropolis. As with all art forms, architecture borrows its ideas from the city's culture and identity. In this second Art Deco feature, we highlight four historic hotels located between People's Square and the Bund.

The 1934 Park Hotel was the tallest building of the day; Broadway Mansions Hotel had best views of the city; the Peace Hotel was the most luxurious in the Far East and twin structures, the Metropole Hotel and Fuzhou Building, reflected the financial optimism of the 1930s.

Metropole Hotel and Fuzhou Building

The intersection of Jiangxi and Fuzhou roads has four grand colonial buildings. To the northeast and southeast are two identical Art Deco structures: Metropole Hotel and the former Hamilton House. Both designed by Palmer & Turner, the imposing twin buildings reflected the financial optimism of the time. The real estate mogul and hotelier Sir Victor Sassoon built the Metropole Hotel with interior fittings that still exude 1930s style. The hotel has 141 guest rooms and suites, with great views of the Bund area. Facing the Metropole is its twin, Hamilton House, today's Fuzhou Building, which Sassoon built in 1934 as a hybrid office building and apartment house. The French brasserie and bar Hamilton House takes its name from the building. In tune with the exterior, the restaurant brought Art Deco back into the restored interior, with stylistic touches such as marble mosaic floor. The average price to dine is 250-350 yuan per person.

Address: 170 Jiangxi Rd M. (Fuzhou Building); 180 Jiangxi Rd M. (Metropole Hotel)

Park Hotel was tallest building

Park Hotel, next to the Grand Cinema on Nanjing Road W., is a masterpiece of renowned Hungarian architect L. E. Hudec's individual design style. This Art Deco 1934 landmark was once the tallest skyscraper in Shanghai until it was surpassed in the 1980s. The first three floors are covered in gleaming black granite from the sacred Laoshan Hill in Qingdao, Shandong Province, and the upper floors are covered with dark brown tiles. As the building was so tall there was a saying about it: "If you tilted your head to look to the top of building your hat would fall off." Once the building was completed, it hosted many grand gatherings and celebrity soirees. During the 1950s, it hosted government delegations and meetings. Today, the Park Hotel boasts 252 rooms.

Address: 170 Nanjing Rd W.

Tel: 6327-5225

Peace Hotel, beauty of the Far East

This north building of the old Peace Hotel on the eastern end of Nanjing Road will reopen this year as the Fairmont Peace Hotel Shanghai after three years of careful, extensive restoration. Proud, legendary and lavish, it will sustain a history that overshadows that of any other hotel in the Far East. Originally it was Sassoon House, which housed the former Cathay Hotel built in 1929 and owned by the Shanghai tycoon Sir Victor Sassoon. With its origins dating back to nearly a century, this landmark served as a glamorous playground for the elite of Shanghai, the site of the city's most opulent events, and a luxurious place to stay for visiting diplomats and celebrities. It was "the most beautiful hotel in the Fast East," its own world of luxury and state-of-the-art amenities. It had air-conditioning, new in 1929 when the hotel opened, and in-house telephones, not even available in European hotels at the time. While much of the old world style has gone, the 1920s Lalique glass ornaments and fixtures survive and the original Art Deco frieze of two greyhounds, the emblem of the hotel, still surrounds the entrance atrium. The hotel will have 270 deluxe guest rooms and suites, six restaurants and lounges, a historic Peace Hall and Fairmont's award-winning Willow Stream Spa. Fairmont Peace Hotel General Manager Kamal Naamani has also launched a nationwide hunt to source memories and memorabilia of this beloved landmark. Whether it is silverware, chinaware, monogrammed goods, historic photographs, postcards, art, past menus, trinkets or great stories and anecdotes, Fairmont is interested and plans to open a Peace Hotel Museum. Those with submissions can send details to

Address: 20 Nanjing Rd E.

Broadway Mansions Hotel

Situated on the Bund and next to Waibaidu Bridge is the Broadway Mansions Hotel. When built in 1930, it was considered an immediate landmark with the best views of the city. Late Premier Zhou Enlai used to invite foreign visitors to the viewing platform. It was designed by Bright Fraser, an English architect who constructed the building in a planar shape, ensuring equal sunlight exposure to every part. Taking four years to build, it features a distinct Art Deco style - pyramid-like tops, round head cornices and strong lines. In 1989, the Shanghai government declared it a historical building to be preserved. Currently operated by Hengshan Hotels & Resorts as a classic business hotel, room rates start from 1,000 yuan (US$146) per night for a deluxe room to 4,500 yuan for a suite.


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