Gonda captures a sense of time and space

Qiao Zhengyue
Renowned for his pursuit of an ultramodern style, Karoly Gonda left a galaxy of signature works in Shanghai, including several buildings sprinkled along the Nanjing Road.
Qiao Zhengyue

Uptown Theatre

According to the “Gonda” book, the Ping’an Building, constructed in 1925, was the home of the Spanish consulate from 1935. In 1939, the American Merchant Lightning Film Company commissioned a remodeling, and the building became the Uptown Theatre, known by the Chinese as the Ping’an Theater. The monumental impression and curved shape of the main red brick-clad facade recalls the Capitol Building on the Bund. 

“The base of the facade is made from stone reminiscent of classical forms — a characteristic of Karoly Gonda’s other works — and finely crafted Art Deco sun motifs appear above the windows,” as is written in the book by Eszter Baldavari.

In 1953, the name of the building was changed to the Ping’an Cinema. The movie house closed in 2005 and is now a residential building with several shops on the ground floor.

Gonda captures a sense of time and space
Nicky Almasy

Yesterday: Uptown Theatre
Today: Ping’an Building
Address: 1191 Nanjing Road W.


Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co Ltd 

In 1930 Gonda renovated the 19th-century building of Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co Ltd on Nanjing Road, which was at one time the largest foreign-owned department store in modern Shanghai. 

An attractive reconstructed plan of a British department store Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co Ltd, on Nanjing Road, was released by the North China Herald on August 10, 1930. 

The big reconstruction in 1930 planned to bring “the premises of this well-known Emporium into line with the most up-to-date buildings of Europe.”

“For the purpose of obtaining a maximum of daylight and natural ventilation, the entire outside of the whole building will be changed, the masonry relieved from the heavy and out-of-date ornamentation and nearly the entire wall space opened up and provided with modern steel casement windows. In harmony with this structural alteration the refacing of the building will be executed along the modern lines of the architectural style which now has been generally adopted abroad. 

“Simplicity in design, dignity and effectiveness will be the keynote of this remodeled building,” the 1930 North China Herald report describes.

However the building was unfortunately engulfed in fire, three months after the opening in 1930. In 1955 it was taken over by the Chinese government and turned into the state-owned Shanghai Huiluo Co Ltd, and it has been ever since.

Gonda captures a sense of time and space
Zhang Xuefei / SHINE

Yesterday: Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co Ltd
Today: Huiluo Co Ltd
Address: 100 Nanjing Road E.


Seymour Road Jewish School 

The new Jewish School mainly sponsored by former Shanghai resident S. Perry was built on the grounds of the Ohel Rachel Synagogue.

Gonda designed the building in 1930 on the former Seymour Road, now Shaanxi Road N.

The building’s facade and interior have undergone some remodeling, but are mostly intact. Archival images show that Gonda’s original concept was a flat-roofed building reminiscent of the works of celebrated American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The tall windows and stone frames of this brick-clad school are simple, but traces of ornamentation appear on the cantilevered overhang of the main entrance. 

The entryway is paved with gray mosaic tiles with a red border, which extends into the building’s interior, which features built-in wooden lockers. The building is now used by the Workers’ Union of Shanghai Educational Committee.

Gonda captures a sense of time and space
Michelle Qiao / SHINE

Yesterday: Seymour Road Jewish School
Today: The Workers’ Union of Shanghai Educational Committee
Address: 500 Shaanxi Road N.


Sun Sun Co

Gonda designed Sun Sun Co, the third of the four big Chinese department stores on Nanjing Road, which reveals a more modern style than the previous two — the Sincere and Wing On department stores. 

When the emporium opened its door for “inspection” in January 1926, it was described as a “spacious, commodious and different department store” by The North-China Herald. 

The edifice was also “a tribute to Shanghai’s growth and future prosperity.” Constructed on the most modern lines, plenty of windows and good indirect lighting, comfortable lifts and adequate display counters, the new premises will delight prospective purchasers and make shopping a pleasure.

Divided by three sections, the facade is designed in Art Deco style, or more accurately transitional from neoclassic to Art Deco style. The shop’s extraordinary signature tower has fashioned the building into a commercial monument in a fresh style.

Gonda captures a sense of time and space
Zhang Xuefei / SHINE

Yesterday: Sun Sun Co.
Today: Shanghai First Food Hall
Address: 720 Nanjing Road E.

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