Saving Shanghai's Art Deco Gems

<p>Even with widespread demolition of old buildings to make way for modern towers, the city still has more art deco buildings than anywhere else on earth. A new photo book hopes to inspire the city to preserve its rich architectural legacy.</p>
February 23, 2007, 12pm PST | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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"The publication of Deke Erh's self-funded new book Shanghai Art Deco is testament to the 47-year-old photographer's determination in the face of the city's merciless wrecking ball. In 320 pages and over 1,000 photographs, Erh and other photographers capture many of the city's surviving historic residences, hotels, cinemas and municipal buildings-creating a sweeping survey of the architectural and cultural treasures that could be threatened by relentless development."

" 'For almost 40 years Shanghai was cut off from the world,' says Tess Johnston, a 75-year-old American who has lived in Shanghai for more than two decades and who wrote the text for Erh's book. 'Now that the city has a chance to catch up, it is looking to the future and neglecting the past. If things don't change, everything that makes Shanghai unique will be lost forever.' "

"Shanghai Art Deco is the eighth collaboration by Erh and Johnston. Though their previous works, all celebrating and recording Western architectural influences on Chinese cities, were published only in English, this book is bilingual. "The others were really aimed at a foreign market, but it's important for me to spread my ideas about conservation to the Chinese population," says Erh. It's not yet a lost cause, adds Johnston, noting that an increasing number of Shanghainese are finally recognizing the value of the more mature buildings in their midst-not least because foreign professionals are willing to pay top dollar to rent them. 'Perhaps purely economic incentives might actually save old Shanghai yet,' she says."

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Published on Friday, February 23, 2007 in Time Magazine
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