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Wow! Really? Meet The Hungarian Architect Who Reshaped Shanghai In The 20th Century

By Robert Velkey // 2017.05.25.

As the saying goes, “Hungarians are everywhere”. We can find actors, politicians, artists, scientists etc with Hungarian roots all around the world (who you can read about in our “Hungarian roots” articles). But while most Hungarians who emigrated from their homeland headed west, one extremely talented architect made his way east, to China. 

László Ede Hugyecz (in english: László Ede Hudec, Slovakian: Ladislav Hudec) was born in 1893 in the town of Besztercebánya (Slovakia: Banska Bystrica) in the Kingdom of Hungary. As a Hungarian-Slovakian citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he studied architecture in the Hungarian capital at Budapest University. During WWI he volunteered to join the Austro-Hungarian Army as a patriotic Austro-Hungarian citizen. He was captured by the Russian Army in 1916 and was sent to a prison camp to Siberia.


It was a strange twist of fate that his unimaginable life and success began at this moment… While being transferred, he jumped from a train near the Chinese border and made his way to Shanghai, where he joined the American architectural office R.A. Curry. In 1925 he opened his own practice, and was responsible for at least 37 buildings up to 1941.

Park Hotel

Hudec is known as the architect who made Shanghai. Between 1927 and 1941 he was the architect of 37 building that still stand today in the city. Hudec’s masterpiece is usually considered to be the 22-story Park Hotel Shanghai, on Nanjing Road across from People’s Square. Built in 1934, it was the tallest building in the city until the 1980s, and is still a local landmark.


In 1941 he obtained a Hungarian passport and was appointed Honorary Consul of Hungary in Shanghai.

After leaving Shanghai in 1947, Hudec moved to Lugano and later to Rome. In 1950 he moved to Berkeley where he taught at the University of California. He died from heart-attack during an earth quake in 1958.


In 1970 his remains were buried in the Lutheran cemetery of his home town,  Besztercebánye.

There is a documentary about his life and works. The film, The Man Who Changed Shanghai, chronicles Hudec’s life and his impact on the cityscape during its most iconic period. In his 30-year career, all but one of Hudec’s 65 structures was built in China.