Shanghai's hidden Art Deco architecture

5 lesser-known Art Deco treasures in Shanghai

Burlington Villas and Cosmopolitan Apartments

You know about the big hitters, but what other Art Deco treasures does the city have to offer? Here are some insider’s tips


Burlington Villas, 134, Lane 1213 Nanjing Xi Lu


Tucked into a lane near the better-known Cosmopolitan Apartments and the old Burlington Hotel (main image), these small but up-todate (for the 1930s) apartments provided aspiring young Shanghailanders (as they called themselves) with a prestigious address in a central location. And they looked (and to us, still look) really cool. Read more about Burlington Villas here.


Former Lester Institute, 505 Dongchangzi Lu


Many Shanghai residents have passed the distinctive Byzantine dome of this once-landmark, now being surrounded on all sides by high-rise new developments. Today it is a hospice, but it was, for a scant seven years, the Lester Institute of Engineering – the MIT of China.


Art Deco lane neighborhood, Xinle Lu near Fumin Lu


This lilong or lane neighbourhood is unique in that it is designed in the ‘Streamline Moderne’ sub-genre of Art Deco design, characterised by swooping curves and liberal use of speedlines. It also is a textbook example of the lilong format, with just one entrance from the main street leading to a matrix of internal lanes.


Villa house, 99 Fuxing Xi Lu


We don’t have any information on this delightful house, which is a test for Art Deco aficionados, as it displays elements of all three Art Deco periods. Above the main entrance a bas relief sculpture with organic shapes typical of early Art Deco is found. The rest of the exterior sports plenty of speedlines and lots of curves, characteristic of the middle period of Art Deco design. But the overall design of the house is asymmetrical, usually found only in late Art Deco buildings.


No 58, Lane 133 Shangwen Lu


Through the grime and the clutter, one can discern that this was the grand home of a wealthy Chinese family. Today it is home to dozens of families – including, apparently, a descendent of the original owners. But he’s not talking.


Wm Patrick Cranley

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