Looking for Hudec
Hudec was one of the main architect of the old Shanghai. He designed major buildings of the city, such as the Park Hotel and the House of Dr Woo (now used as a club and restaurant). Hudec introduced a new style to the city after his trip to America creating the most modern buildings at the time. His legacy can be clearly seen around the International Settlement of the old Shanghai. I got particularly interested in Hudec since he came from Hungary and I spent years in this coutry before. One of my architect friend was putting together a presentation about Hudec work. Since she is from Australian, she knew very little if any about the history of that part of the world. For her, I had to tell the story of the Austro-hungarian empire and how the treaty of Trianon (1920) dismantled it and created tensions that are still so vivid there. I even took my map of Hungary before and after Trianon treaty that I bought a few years ago in Budapest as a souvenir (my friends from Budapest will know exactly what I am talking about).
50 years after his death, Hudec is finding himself in the center nationalistic competitions that started after he actually left the country and never returned. Hudec was born in a city that was Hungary then, but is now located in Slovakia, know as Banska Bistrica today. Since he studied in Budapest Royal Academy, he clearly spoke and wrote Hungarian. Hungary was rouling this part of the world at that time so his education was certainly done in Hungarian, thus he is seen as Hungarian by Hungarians. At the same time, he is refered on all his buildings in Shanghai as Laudislav Hudec, a architect from Czechoslovakia. This surely infuriates any Hungarian knowing about it.
Having lived in Central Europe I heard the story from both sides so many time. I find it really strange to be caught back this typical central european story as far as Shanghai. Both countries are now part of the EU and entered the Schenghen space but this competition is still going on. Seen from China, they are tiny nations (Hungary and Slovakia’s population combined is smaller that Shanghai). Hudec was taken prisoner on the Russian front in 1917 and escaped a train to a prisonner camp in Siberia to finally arrive in Shanghai. He stayed away from Europe and move to Canada when Old Shanghai closed its doors to foreigners. Though is never went back, he still finds himself caught back by it even after his death.
This will not stop the celebration of his work still that is so much part of Shanghai (more details on www.hudec.sh). More information about Laszlo Hudec and his life can be found on (http://students.washington.edu/lrh/hudec/index.html).