Park Hotel, historically known as Shanghai Joint Savings Society Building, stands 90 meters tall and was built in 1934. Hudec designed the skyscraper predominantly in Art Deco style, mixed with Gothic and modernism, making it one of the finest hotels of the time, and transforming the skyline of Shanghai.
During the early years of the development of Shanghai, László Hudec, a Hungarian architect based in Shanghai, designed the tallest skyscraper in Asia- the Park Hotel, which maintained its record for decades. Park Hotel, historically known as Shanghai Joint Savings Society Building, stands 90 meters tall and was built in 1934. Hudec designed the skyscraper predominantly in Art Deco style, mixed with Gothic and modernism, making it one of the finest hotels of the time, and transforming the skyline of Shanghai.
The design of the 22-storeyed, 15,650 square meters floor area – building, drew the inspiration from the skyscrapers of New York and Chicago during the constant visits of the architect in these cities. The architecture in the Central European countries also had its influences on the design. An amalgamation of these influences along with consideration of Shanghai’s climatic conditions led to a modernist masterpiece which then stood boldly, soaring the skyline of Shanghai, amid the city’s low-rise context, in front of the race-course – the main reason to set the foundation for the building in that place.
The three-tiered structure is divided based on the activities – the bank on the ground floor, bank vaults in the basement, and bank offices on the 1st. The 2nd floor covers a large dining hall with views across the race-course. The symmetrically arranged windows and black granite cladding on the façade of these floors fit harmoniously with the pedestrian level and create an impression of a solid front. The lobby on the ground floor has a huge marble pillar in the center that gives a tree-like appearance supporting the upper floors. The geometric-patterned golden-black-white hued flooring contrasts smoothly with the exterior.
The uniform-looking, second-tier from the 3rd floor to the 13th floor houses the guest rooms 18 square meters each, and the 15th floor through the 18th-floor houses private apartments of one-two bedrooms. The third tier – stepped-tower, a feature of the art-deco style, rises from the 14th floor.
The 19th floor was exclusively for the Board of Directors of the Joint Savings Society. The services of the building – water tank, lift machinery, and air conditioning are controlled on the 20th and 21st floors. Balconies provided for the rooms of stepped-tower compensate for the lesser internal space due to reduction in floor area. The façades of the last two tiers are cladded with reddish-brown lozenge-patterned brick, which amid the cluster of other structures, shows its audacity.
Now, who wouldn’t want to enjoy views from the topmost floor of the tallest building of Asia? An observation deck in the octagonal shape was designed for the guests to enjoy the surrounding views along with the race-course.
The height, elegant and latest styled Art deco interiors, and the location attracted various international guests and VIPs for vacations as well as for international conferences and social events. The spaces featured elegant decors like fine quality wooden panels, golden lacquered columns and ceilings, and draperies that looked like first-class hotels.
Materials and Construction
The elegantly designed building had to undergo a lot of challenges. The major challenge began right from the foundation level itself. The buildings in Shanghai, having the alluvial earth below them, had the danger of getting sunk in the ground. But the cleverly designed Park Hotel became the first building in the region that did not sink during and after construction.
Park Hotel sits on a reinforced concrete raft base 24 feet deep, topped by 400 wooden piles 150 feet long, above which sits a 300-feet high tensile steel frame. The basement thus formed was a unique feature in Shanghai during the time, which also contributed to greater stability for the structure. This technique helped to distribute the pressure evenly on the soil, hence preventing it from sinking.
An innovative material was introduced for the structural system that contributed to the lightness of the structure. Special chrome steel – a high-performance steel that has a high level of resistance to corrosion and excellency in achieving mechanical resistance.
This also allowed for a heavy-looking brick façade, which Hudec derived from the Gothic style of Europe, and combined it with uniformly arranged windows to let in natural light – a feature of Art deco. The alternate arrangement of lozenge-shaped tile, vertical bands of piers (from the 3rd floor), and uniformly placed slender windows were also possible due to this innovation. The dark lozenge-shaped tile also allowed for a variety of patterns on the façade. The piers contributed majorly to the structural stability of the stepped-tower.
Materials, innovations in the design, and technology stand at the forefront while considering the sustainability of the building. The dark bricks used are an excellent material against the extreme climate of Shanghai. It robustly handles the rain and frozen water in the cold winters, humidity, and the expansion and shrinkage caused during the hot summers. Also, the technique used as anti-sinking displays its effects even after decades.
The interiors of the structure underwent renovation twice. Moreover, the design style and techniques which Hudec used, which was a brave attempt that differed from the local architecture and other styles widely in use, still show its audacity amid the skyscrapers of Shanghai, making it a sign of modernism for the development of Shanghai.