Reviving the lost vision of a German architect

Richard Paulick's vision for post-war Shanghai is still referred to by today's urban planners.
Hou Li / Ti Gong

German architect Richard Paulick

Natasha Paulick, granddaughter of German architect Richard Paulick who co-drafted the post-war Greater Shanghai Plan, introduced her grandfather’s life and work in DDR Berlin during her recent visit to Shanghai for the annual book fair.

“He designed Karl-Marx-Allee and I’m now living in his former apartment on top of a building he designed there,” said Natasha Paulick, who visited her grandfather’s former Chinese student, architectural scholar Li Dehua, during her Shanghai trip. “We can gaze upon the world from above and felt somewhat removed from the gray, everyday life in the streets below.”

It was Tongji University professor Hou Li’s research and recent book that aroused extensive interest in this German architect whose 16 years in Shanghai had been long forgotten.

Before coming to Shanghai in 1933, Richard Paulick had studied architecture at the Dresden Technical University and established close  ties with the Bauhaus architects in Dessau .

He then worked for Bauhaus master Walter Gropius in Dessau and later in Berlin. In 1933, he migrated to China and stayed in Shanghai until 1949.

During his exile, he founded design company Modern Homes with his brother and worked as an architect, interior designer, stage designer and a professor at St John’s University.

In 1945, he was commissioned by the Kuomintang government as a core member of the team drafting the post-war Greater Shanghai Plan in the 1940s.

Paulick and his Chinese colleagues completed the final third edition of the plan in 1949 which they gave to the New China government.

Hou Li / Ti Gong

Berlin Stalinallee Section C in the 1970s

Although the blueprint wasn’t implemented, it has become an important reference for Shanghai’s urban planning.

“Paulick spent 16 years of his golden age in Shanghai, from 30 to 46,” says professor Hou.

“Here he not only made a living by designing homes for the wealthy families, but also discussed the industrialization and modernization of China and his vision for Shanghai's urban planning,” Hou says, adding that Paulick’s vision included constructing a deep-water international port, which is now a reality.

The professor says that it must have been a hard decision for Paulick to decide to return to Berlin on October 1, 1949, four months after Shanghai was liberated.

“I believe no matter whether he had chosen to go to the United States, Brazil or West Germany, he would have had a rich life owing to his personality, rich experience, talent and ability,” Hou says.

“No wonder he had a new career highlight in Berlin after 46 years old, where he became chief architect of Stalinallee Section C (the present Karl-Marx-Allee), where Natasha’s apartment  is just upstairs. I believe there are more archives in her home for me to dig out to study this German architect.”

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