In 1843, the first European building appeared on the northern bank of Yang King Pang Creek at the corner of The Bund. Since then, styles and concepts of western architecture had fundamentally changed the traditional urban architecture of Shanghai.
The city became a stage for different western architectural schools competing in terms of novelty and beauty, and was known for a time as the “international architectural exposition”.
Modern architecture in Shanghai developed mainly by imitation of western architecture, gradually forming a distinct Shanghai architectural style. 1843 to 1900 was a phase of transplanting foreign styles to Shanghai, 1900 to 1925 was a phase of growth, and 1925 to 1937 was a phase of development.
During the first phase, the most common style was colonial colonnaded architecture, known as “East Indian Style” because it arrived in Shanghai via India.
Colonnaded buildings had colonnades eight all around or on the front. This phase can be further sub-divided into three periods: an early period of the colonnaded veranda, and a late period with a more ornate style.
Classical European architecture was transmitted to Shanghai during this period with the construction of churches, mainly gothic revival churches. Buildings which remain from this period include British Consulate built in 1872, and Dongjiadu Cathedral built from 1843 to 1953.
In the 1870’s, the old-fashioned Shikumen apartments, which were a combination of semidetached European houses with traditional Chinese wood framework and bricks, became a distinctive Shanghai residential style.
In the second phase, Shanghai style become the new classical architecture prevailing at the end of the nineteenth century in Europe.
Especially favoured at the beginning of the twentieth century was the British Edwardian baroque style. This style involved the use of stone, giant colonnaded verandas, and ornate, flowery decoration.
Meanwhile economic changes demanded new architectural responses. With the use of reinforced concrete, the introduction of new technology and competition between design teams, a mix of traditional Chinese style buildings, modernist and eclectic buildings sprang up in Shanghai.
Representative examples of the period include: Russo-Chinese Bank Building (1905), Palace Hotel (1906), Gibb Livingston Building (1908), Shanghai Club Building and China Mutual Life Insurance Company Building (1911), Shanghai Municipal Council Building (1922), HSBC Building (1923), Kadoorie’s House, Shanghai Post Office Building (1924), American Club Building (1925), and Kincheng Banking Corporation Building (1926).
The third phase was the boom time of early modern Shanghai, a prosperous period for the architecture and real estate business. With a significant increase of investment in building there emerged a more mature group of building material manufacture, construction and architectural design. In this phase, the most common style was the modern international style, but there were also buildings in the classical revival and Art Deco styles, as well as modern high-rise architecture with classical.