Historic roads closely linked with Normandie Apartments
By Michelle Qiao
THE fate of the Normandie Apartments (Wukang Building) has always been tied to Huaihai and Wukang roads.
Shanghai Tongji University scholar Li Yingchun calls Huaihai Road “a very magical street.”
“The French changed its name from ‘Rue’ to ‘Avenue,’ which was meaningful,” she says. “Avenue means wide and straight in French. An avenue needs to be visually appealing with good scenery on both sides and at the end.”
Tongji University professor Hua Xiahong says Hudec’s Normandie Apartments sit on a crossroad much like what can be seen on a Parisian avenue.
“It was no doubt an important part of Avenue Joffre (today’s Huaihai Road). The location has enhanced the significance and recognition of this building,” she adds.
Wukang Road is another story. According to a 1924 Chinese book “A Comprehensive View of Shanghai Anecdotes,” the road was originally constructed by a prominent American named John Calvin Ferguson to make it convenient for faculty members to travel from their downtown homes to Nanyang College (today’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University). It was unnamed, but locals widely referred to as Ferguson Road in honor of the builder.
Li says the French Municipal Council in 1914 expanded the former French concession westward to today’s Huashan Road, planning on turning it into the city’s most luxurious residential area.
Crisscrossed by farms, graveyards and small creeks until the early 1900s, the neighborhood around Wukang and Huaihai roads grew to be an idyllic neighborhood for comfortable living.
Garden villas, new-style alleyway houses and highrise apartments sprouted up like mushrooms during the 1920s and 1930s, including the Normandie Apartments.
The area was the only well-planned, high-quality residential neighborhood in old Shanghai, Li says. And it still is today.
In 2009, Wukang Road was rejuvenated with the goal of reviving its former beauty and making it a nice historical street.
“It was the first attempt that we tried to revive a historical street,” says Guan Yetong, director of the Xuhui District Urban Planning Bureau and head of the project.
“We chose Wukang Road because it is basically neat with very simple business. And it is also an important street, like a fish bone for the whole neighborhood.”
He says the team focused on restoring all the intersections, removing ugly signage and repairing the facades of 1980s buildings with more natural materials.
Since then Wukang Road has been attracting more people and it is now one of the city’s most romantic streets.