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Overnight at the Crossroads: Abelardo Lafuente's Architectural Legacy for 'The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd.' in Shanghai


Alvaro Leonardo Pérez

Independent Scholar, Madrid, Spain


ABSTRACT  The business success of the most important hotel company in Asia in the 20th century, and therefore of its owners, the Kadoorie Family, is intertwined with the life of the only Spanish architect in the city of Huangpu. A long-forgotten story, its discovery reveals the interests, tastes and cultural mix of the multinational community that inhabited the most open city of the continent. Abelardo Lafuente García-Rojo (Madrid 1871–Shanghai 1931) worked uninterruptedly for the ‘Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd.’ (HSH) for ten years since 1916. In that decade, he carried out interior renovations in eight HSH hotels in the cities of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Shameen in Canton. Along with that, he worked for many clients and introduced the Spanish neo-Arab style in several buildings which still stand today in the city under unknown authorship. His professional career in China—linked to the HSH—is a case study of the cultural melting pot of the city of Shanghai. Lafuente is nowadays a foot note in Shanghai´s architecture history and yet he deserves a chapter of his own, and this article is the first step.

KEYWORDS  Abelardo Lafuente, Spanish architects in China, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, ballrooms

Received June 23, 2019; accepted September 4, 2019.

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