Not as famous as the Normandie, Astrid, Washington, Liberty or some of the other famous pre-Liberation apartment blocks in the French Concession – sometimes referred to as the Hengshan Road-Fuxing Road Historic Area – the Clement Apartments, at Fuxing Middle Road 1363, is one of the more eccentric unexpected complexes in an area of Shanghai known globally for its art deco.
The first Pawnstar showroom/experience center will be opening on the first floor of the building to the left of the main entrance on the first floor. You just have to walk in the main entrance and walk left, passing through the small garden. We are in the process of the renovations and decorating, so we will save the in-depth introduction to our own space for later. I would like to introduce the Clement first.
Please click below to read more about the Clement.
The wikipedia entry about the complex is rather comprehensive, but it’s in Chinese and I don’t have time for a full translation. The gist of it is that the Clement was completed in 1929 by a Belgian businessman who worked in Shanghai initially for the Compagnie Française de Tramways et d’Élairage Électrique de Changhai, which was responsible for the tramways, as described here. This businessman, whose name was Clement, left that company due to disagreements and started a real estate development company focused on providing housing for the growing population of expatriates in Shanghai.
The Clement is often described as being “French Style” and has a rustic and nostalgic flavor. The complex has five four to five story buildings and an inner courtyard with an attractive garden. In the 1930s and 1940s, it housed a skating rink, a theater and an Italian restaurant as well. The most similar complex in style to this one is the King Albert Apartments, right down Fuxing Road at the cross section with Sha’anxi South Road. The King Albert was also built by Clement.
One of the leading experts on Shanghai’s pre-liberation architecture and history, Spencer Doddington, calls the building “rustic, twee, quaint, French-village-retro”. He continues “this faux-nostalgic mix was most attractive to European families with children in the pre-1949 period.” For a die-hard art deco fan like Spencer, the Clement might not be the most appealing of the French Concession’s historic buildings, but the fact it is not art deco, makes it really stand out, giving it an almost magical, other-worldly energy.
Opposite the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, the Clement adds to the variety of architecture in what must be one of the most pleasant and elegant promenading spots in Shanghai, Fuxing Middle Street, the former Rue Lafayette. The same block is also home to Jubilee Court Apartments, the Baroque The Blackstone Apartments with its stones imported from England, and the Elizabeth apartments, a rather eccentrically art-deco building with just sixteen units, one of which I looked at last year and regret not buying. Interestingly, the Clement was declared a historically protected building in 1994 several years before the Elizabeth or Blackstone. Another neighboring attraction is the Union Trading Company, a Brooklyn-style artisanal cocktail bar with predictably pricey drinks and rarefied bar food.
The street is perhaps best-known for its music shops and schools. There are even men hard at work assembling violins right at the doorway of the Clement. This is of course the neighborhood of the famous Shanghai Conservatory of music.
We will get update here on Stylites soon regarding the formal opening of the Pawnstar showroom at the Clement.