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Old April 3rd, 2009, 03:31 PM   #821
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Art deco structures in Chicago are considerably larger and more prominent than the average Shanghai art deco structures - yes. Spread over a comparably large area? No...

But agree to disagree.
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 04:08 PM   #822
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^ But maybe you think Chicago's art deco is all in the Loop area? Chicago does sprawl a long way, it was one of the first cities to have far flung car-dependent suburbs, and that's why there's art deco miles out in the suburbs. Much of it's pretty modest - cinemas, bank branches, suburban shopfronts, bars (I'm thinking of a memorable evening at the Green Mill cocktail lounge, one of Al Capone's favourite haunts, it's maybe 8 miles out of the centre ).

I also think it's important to take account of the size of the buildings in terms of their impact on the cityscape. Obviously a suburban art deco bungalow, or a small downtown art deco bar, do not have the same impact on the city as monsters like the Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Daily News Building, Field Building, Merchandise Mart (for a long time the biggest building in the world), One North Lasalle, etc. Likewise I'm sure you wouldn't contend that those functional residential buildings with barely any recognisable art deco features have equivalent impact or value to the No. 1 Department Store or the impressive art deco buildings on or around the Bund. But when it comes to those buildings with substantial impact, then I think Chicago has a lot more and larger.

Anyway my apologies for leading offtopic. This thread is supposed to be about Shanghai's construction projects!

Last edited by Langur; April 3rd, 2009 at 04:22 PM.
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 04:30 PM   #823
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As I said, I last visited Chicago back in January this year so I'm very familiar with the city and its surroundings. The Loop is a tiny fraction of Chicago's inner city area - let alone the whole urban agglomeration. Although, the vast majority of Chicago's art deco collection belong in the inner city, with smaller collections in the old streetcar suburb centres.
Most of Shanghai's urban area is of inner-city character, and the art deco areas are spread throughout basically all of these enormous areas (except for the Pudong side which is all post-80/90s development). As spliff fairy writes - visit the Hongkou borough (which is generally not considered rich of old architecture) which have both big and small art deco buildings lining every street block after block. Some are in abysmal state and some still look great. Despite the massive commieblock developments and the skyscraper boom of the 90s and onwards, many parts of Shanghai is still predominately art deco - even though it's hard to grasp. Extent-wise Chicago isn't really comparable.

However, Chicago generally have a more "rich" art deco collection with larger and more prominent buildings, but that is entirely besides the discussion topic here as we're talking merely about the extent of the art deco collection. In that sense, only NYC (and perhaps Mumbai and Kolkata) are viable contenders to Shanghai.
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 05:32 PM   #824
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^ I have explored Hongkou actually, though once beyond the impressive Shanghai Mansions, I remember it primarily as an area of communist era concrete interspersed with some shikumen-style brick buildings. I've spent more time in Shanghai than in either Chicago or New York. Given that none of us has a database as to the total number of art deco buildings in every city, and the lack of any objective way to balance the number of buildings against their average size/impact, then all we have to go on is impression. In which city does art deco architecture have the most impact? In my opinion the art deco makes a greater impact in New York and Chicago. I think Black Cat is right to mention that art deco landmarks spread right through Manhattan from the Downtown tip, a vast bulk through Midtown, all of those landmark apartment blocks lining Central Park (especially the Upper West Side), and way up into Harlem. And that's not to mention all the art deco in the outer boroughs. I also think Chicago's art deco has more impact. In the centre there seem to be massive art deco commercial buildings looming over every street and around every corner. You'll also stumble across little gems such as an art deco diner or an original curved wooden bar (such places did not survive the communist era in Shanghai). The only places where I get that feel in Shanghai are in the central historic areas aforementioned, and even there it's confined to certain pockets rather than extending right through as in Chicago or New York.
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 05:43 PM   #825
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Yeah as I said, both NYC and Chi art deco has more impact and is generally of "higher quality" then most of the art deco in Shanghai (however, Shanghai has tons of quality art deco - mainly in those areas by tourist percieved as Shanghai's "main art deco areas", ie. Huangpu and so on). But "quality" and impact are completely besides the point here, as we only talked about the extent of the art deco collection in this thread, and in that sense Shanghai and Chicago aren't really comparable in my opinion (lived in Shanghai for 1,5 years, visitied several times for 30-60 days each time - visited Chicago and explored it extensively less than two months ago).

Shanghai has huge areas of predominately art deco all the way from the Jiangwan Sports Complex in the north (not far from the Yangtze River Mouth) all the way down to the old Longhua Airport in the south (ie. several kilometres south of the highway ring), and from the western parts of the Changning District in the west to the areas around the Yangpu Bridge in the east (that's the bridge that's 4-5 kilometres east of Lujiazui).

But as you say, we don't have any hard data so we have to go by our own experiences (articles by major newspapers as spliff fairy posted help too of course), and my impressions tell me that the claims that Shanghai have the largest collection of art deco on the planet sounds reasonable (having been to NYC and Chicago as well).


I think we're not getting anywhere with this, eh?
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 05:51 PM   #826
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Ok well fair enough. You have the reverse impression from mine. Anyway let's allow this thread to get back to its proper purpose....
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 05:54 PM   #827
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I think we'll all have to agree to disagree. Art deco spotting in Shanghai is a bit of an art, true, due to the add-ons, washing lines etc. of the Chinese way of city life. But bear in mind much of the city sat unchanged from the 1930s right until the 1990s as the Communist govt followed a policy of isolationism for the city, art deco blocks are in every central area, and many of the thousands of shikumen are art deco too, not traditional. That is greatly changing now with the building boom.


here are some pics from the 1980 and early 90s, a city of 10 million seemingly preserved from the 1930s
(and much more so than other less upstart Chinese cities), and not a commie block in sight.


http://english.cri.cn

http://english.cri.cn

www.geocities.com

all following pix thanx to Micah Sittig, www.msittig.blogspot.com






for example all these buildings still survive, but nowadays under neon:







oh, btw :



Last edited by the spliff fairy; April 3rd, 2009 at 06:30 PM.
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 06:05 PM   #828
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^ I think you guys are just attaching a lot more value to those nondescript residential buildings than I am. Anyway.... are those photos of the Great Wall of China Spliff? They'd be taken with a powerful telescopic lens as its definitely invisible to the naked eye from 700 miles up:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_W...ity_from_space
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 06:53 PM   #829
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The myth that needs debunking is that the Great Wall can be seen from the moon, as traced to Ripleys Believe it or Not claim in the 1930s. However, the wall can be seen from space (as can alot of things). If the pics are taken by telescope hundreds of miles above the surface, I still say you can see the wall, without telescope, from well above the atmosphere (not hundreds of miles up, but definitely within space). For example, the pic below, for scale, is 15 miles by 45 miles, the radar image at right shows double sides of the wall and the flattened sides.


www.intute.ac.uk

Last edited by the spliff fairy; April 3rd, 2009 at 07:01 PM.
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 07:11 PM   #830
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^ From 100 miles up you can see it but then you can also see lots of other manmade objects. A large motorway, for instance, is many times wider than the Great Wall, and offers greater colour contrast with its surroundings. However seeing things from 100 miles away is not so uncommon even at ground level. I myself have seen the Alps and Himalayas from that kind of distance. The popular myth, however, is that the Great Wall is the only manmade object visible from space, and that's simply wrong.
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 07:28 PM   #831
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Then I think the myth that needs debunking is its the only manmade thing visible from space, not that its visible from space - it is.
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 08:09 PM   #832
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I just noticed the photos you added. I'm still not convinced by your argument, sorry. There is lots of neon along Nanjing Lu, but it's still really obvious that the buildings underneath are art deco or other historic styles. They're not hidden completely. Your claim rests on counting the number of buildings, and on including in that count ordinary residential housing with virtually no discernable art deco features. But the whole concept of numbers is wrong to start off with. By that logic a single bungalow house with minimal architectural merit has the same value as the Empire State Building, and that two such dull bungalow houses have the same value as the ESB and Crysler Building combined. That's obviously nonsense! For me the city with the most art deco is the city which offers the greatest "architectural feast" in that style. Nondescript and featureless buildings contribute little or nothing to that feast so it doesn't matter how many streets like this you have, as their contribution is virtually nil:



I mean where's the art deco there? It's not just that the clothes lines are hiding them, as I honestly cannot see a single art deco architectural detail in those photos. Can you point them out to me? If this is what your claim rests upon then I think you're on thin ice. That's why I think art deco is a much more prominent part of New York and Chicago's cityscapes and it's the total sum of quantity x value that makes for the greatest feast.


By the way it was fascinating to see this remnant of English style mock-Tudor suburban housing in Shanghai. Unfortunately this has nearly all gone. When Spielberg filmed JG Ballard's semi-autobiographical novel, "Empire of the Sun" (starring the young Christian Bale), it was the first Western film to be shot in Shanghai since the communist takeover in 1949. Already by 1987 almost all the old English style suburban housing had gone, and they had to shoot those scenes in England:


Last edited by Langur; April 3rd, 2009 at 08:32 PM.
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 08:37 PM   #833
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But it's completely irrelevant if you personally can't identify the art deco features on those buildings pictured above. What was mentioned in this thread is that Shanghai has one of the largest - if not the largest - collections of art deco on the planet. It doesn't matter if the art deco in Shanghai is more anonymous or covered in neon or clothing lines. The building are built during the same era as those in NYC/Chicago and they are of the same style - albeit less "fancy".

Also I don't think spliff fairy's example with Nanjing Rd. is a good one because that style of art deco is not representative of 95% of the art deco in Shanghai. Nor are those building with the clothing lines, of course.

Nobody has claimed that the typical Shanghai art deco 2-story building has as much architectural or historical value as the Chrysler Building or the ESB. Why do you say that? Seems like you're desperately are reaching for arguments by putting words in our mouths here.

Typical examples of Shanghai art deco:

image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


Good example of a mix between art deco and neo-classic Chinese style
image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr




Then you of course have the more typical "fancy" art deco in touristy areas (for example those around Nanjing Road):

image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 08:42 PM   #834
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^ Edit: those three pictures you just posted are definitely art deco and decent examples of it too.
Quote:
Originally Posted by staff View Post
But it's completely irrelevant if you personally can't identify the art deco features on those buildings pictured above.
Those street photos posted by Spliff are not art deco buildings and it is relevent if the claim that Shanghai has the largest collection is based on buildings like that.
Quote:
Originally Posted by staff View Post
What was mentioned in this thread is that Shanghai has one of the largest - if not the largest - collections of art deco on the planet. It doesn't matter if the art deco in Shanghai is more anonymous or covered in neon or clothing lines. The building are built during the same era as those in NYC/Chicago and they are of the same style - albeit less "fancy". Also I don't think spliff fairy's example with Nanjing Rd. is a good one because that style of art deco is not representative of 95% of the art deco in Shanghai.
But a lot of Shanghai's art deco is grand and impressive. Those art deco buildings around Bund/Nanjing Lu/Huaihai Lu etc are the ones with the architectural value.
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 09:00 PM   #835
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Well personally I think all art deco in Shanghai has great historical value, especially considering how surprising and not well known its collection is. Also because much of it is threatened.

Neither the buildings in the Huangpu District or the ones with the clothing lines that spliff fairy are representative of the majority of art deco in Shanghai. Those that I posted in my previous post are (to a greater extent).


Some more typical Shanghai deco:

image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr



It's not always easy to distinguish it from some of the crap that was built in the 80s. Also, in many cases the art deco buildings from the 30s have suffered terrible refurbishments and "renovations" into KTV-palaces and tacky entertainment clubs.


That clothing line example that spliff fairy posted - in many cases the buildings look quite anonymous themselves (and are covered in clothes and signage), but details such as the doorways are often well preserved:

image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 10:20 PM   #836
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We said we were going to cut this debate but here we are still, post after post.... So I'll try to wrap up my position once and for all: I am well aware of the large stock of modest/non-landmark art deco buildings in Shanghai. I'm not ignoring them nor ignorant of their existance. Some of those you have posted are indeed of high quality (albeit of lesser value than the famous ones). However there are countless such modest quality art deco buildings in New York and Chicago too, both in the urban and suburban districts. Your implication that those cities only have skyscrapers, and/or only in the central districts, is simply inaccurate. They have the whole shebang: art deco apartment buildings, hotels, shops, cinemas, gas stations, bars, diners etc. However my main point is simply that Chicago and New York's art deco makes a greater overall impression on the visitor. The size of the art deco "architectural feast" is given by the formula: quantity x value, and when I say "value", I mean architectural value, not just historic. Having said that I think New York, at least, probably has more than Shanghai in outright numbers as well as in average architectural value. I think the claim that Shanghai has the most art deco outside the US has strong credibility, and indeed that the's claim I've read in this book and elsewhere (good read btw - though a few years dated now). However, based on my own first hand impressions of these cities, it still trails the art deco feast on show in New York and Chicago which are, in my view, the greatest art deco cities in the world.
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Old April 4th, 2009, 01:25 AM   #837
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now we have a debate about art deco? art deco was built when it was fashionable. art deco is a chronologically retroactive term, and is used to denote 'modernist' architecture of the 20s and 30s. art deco was a pragmatic style during its era and efficiently utilized its then-contemporary constraints of materials and labor. thus... there's no point to arguing.

Quote:
Chicago and New York's art deco makes a greater overall impression on the visitor
lord this is dopey. because shanghai's development was artificially limited for several generations, shanghai missed out on the mass tear downs of the 60s modernist/rationalist era, and thus a disproportionate amount of its art deco buildings have survived. the historical tear downs that have been documented in the media pale in comparison to the larger numbers of tear downs in the 60s rationalist era.

you could have similarly listed several other cities like buffalo, detroit, and miami beach. the cities have a similar stock of art deco, yet for various reasons, had their art deco districts stagnate. thus they have large numbers of (sometimes disintegrating) art deco architecture. thus south beach has a much more consistent selection of art deco than either chicago or new york.
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Old April 4th, 2009, 05:35 AM   #838
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Quote:
Originally Posted by particlez View Post
now we have a debate about art deco? art deco was built when it was fashionable. art deco is a chronologically retroactive term, and is used to denote 'modernist' architecture of the 20s and 30s. art deco was a pragmatic style during its era and efficiently utilized its then-contemporary constraints of materials and labor. thus... there's no point to arguing.
I don't really see how it was termed at the time as being relevant to our discussion. It only matters that we all understand what it is (and isn't).
Quote:
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lord this is dopey. because shanghai's development was artificially limited for several generations, shanghai missed out on the mass tear downs of the 60s modernist/rationalist era, and thus a disproportionate amount of its art deco buildings have survived. the historical tear downs that have been documented in the media pale in comparison to the larger numbers of tear downs in the 60s rationalist era.
Yeah but Shanghai has certainly made up for lost time in recent years.
Quote:
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you could have similarly listed several other cities like buffalo, detroit, and miami beach. the cities have a similar stock of art deco, yet for various reasons, had their art deco districts stagnate. thus they have large numbers of (sometimes disintegrating) art deco architecture. thus south beach has a much more consistent selection of art deco than either chicago or new york.
I have never been to Buffalo or Detroit so that's why I didn't mention them. I will go to Miami in October and my main reason to visit is to see the pastel-coloured art deco of South Beach (I also want to party with the models ). However I think the context of art deco in Miami is less comparable to Shanghai than the more urban designs found in cities like New York, Chicago, Bombay, Calcutta, Cairo, Rio, London, etc (and I imagine in Detroit and Buffalo). Other cities also have large and consistent stocks of art deco (eg Asmara, Napier, Tel Aviv etc) but, as with Miami, I think their general urban style and feel are very different to Shanghai's.

Last edited by Langur; April 4th, 2009 at 05:55 AM.
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Old April 4th, 2009, 06:30 AM   #839
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it's relevant to the discussion because art deco was a very practical and thus ubiquitous building style. if new york and chicago did not have their later construction booms, their stock of art deco would be much larger.

furthermore, the destruction in shanghai DOES pale in comparison to chicago and new york. in the immediate postwar era, no one saw art deco as worthy of preservation, and the historical preservation movement did not gain any traction until the later parts of the 1960s, when much of the art deco stock had already been dismantled. thus... you can save your smilies for another thread.

Quote:
I think their general urban style and feel are very different to Shanghai's.
uh... yeah. now you're verging into BS mode.
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Old April 4th, 2009, 03:04 PM   #840
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Langur, decide whether youre arguing about the number of art deco buildings, or the quality, or the 'impact'.

I am arguing numbers here. My stand is that Shanghai, thanks to 50 years of stagnation still has:

1. the more prominent art deco its famous for, and that can be seen in its larger buildings such as dept stores and multistorey offices

2. but backed up by the myriad smaller buildings and residential streets (in much larger numbers extant than elsewhere in the world)

3. and also the large amount of 'disguised' blocks (details covered up by washing lines, extensions, neon etc.).

If you think about it, almost anything that isn't highrise in the centre was built in the 1920s and 30s when the International Treaty port flowered. If you look at the original Old City area, that predated the era, its a fraction of the rest of the centre. WWII followed by Civil War, then the communist takeover kept the city in limbo right until the opening up of the economy in the 1980s.


On impact I agree Shanghai's unrestored state lacks the demarcation elsewhere.

Last edited by the spliff fairy; April 4th, 2009 at 03:27 PM.
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