Gabriel Rabinovich


Gabriel Rabinovich c. 1940, Shanghai.

Gabriel “Gava” Rabinovich (1899–1962) 

also: G. Rabinovitch

Гавриил Борисович РАБИНОВИЧ (1899–1962). Русский текст – внизу страницы

Civil engineer, architect

Born in Polotsk, in Vitebsk province, Russia, on 8 June, 1899; died in Tel Aviv, on March 16, 1962. Had wife Rosa (Rosetta) Isakovna; daughter Isa (Isabel Sharon), born on 18 November 1927; son Boris, born on 9 December 1931. 

Rena Krasno, author of the memoir Strangers Always, was his niece; she passed his architectural drawings and photographs to the Hoover Archives. According to her memoir, Uncle Gava was well-educated, wrote plays, told great jokes and doted on his wife. "Gava, endowed with a large bulbous nose, regales all and sundry with hilarious, often bawdy, tales told in a wide range of accents – Georgian, Tartar, Yiddish, Chinese." (Strangers Always)

Rabinovich studied at Vladivostok Commercial College and Tomsk Technology Institute. He left Russia in 1920, stayed briefly in Shanghai and left the next year for Palestine. Two years later he returned to Shanghai, where his brother David was living; their parents joined them there as well. 

In 1927, as a "penniless architect" and married, Rabinovich created his earliest known project – the conversion of a residential building on Ward Road into the new Ohel Moshe Synagogue. The rebuilding required the removal of the second floor and the addition of pillars to support the roof. A mezzanine was constructed so women could pray separately from men. (Rena Krasno, Russian Jews in Shanghai) The synagogue opened in October 1928. 

In 1930–1931 Rabinovich worked for Elliott Hazzard studio as Chief Architect. In that period, he designed and constructed the office of Shanghai Power Co. on Nanking Road, Lieu Ong Kee Building on Szechuen Road, and Brookside Apartments (1930), on Avenue Haig. Another apartment house very similar to the latter, named Rivers Court, was erected on Yu Yuen Road in 1931.

In 1933–1935, he worked for the Republic Land Investment Co. 五和洋行, which was implementing a massive development scheme on North Szechuen Road and siting three multistory buildings there. The flagship of the project – the New Asia Hotel – was designed by the company's chief architect S. A. Sayer, with no involvement of Poy Gum Lee (in spite of common claims). Rabinovich designed the other two apartment buildings – the Bridge House and Derring Apartments – which opened on 15 January 1935. During the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, the Bridge House became the infamous military prison and its apartments were converted to cells.

Rabinovich designed Doumer Apartments, Koffman Apartments (for Mrs. Vera L. Koffman), and "several other small streamline moderne buildings in the French Concession". He was the author of modernist apartments at 1274 Avenue Joffre and 27 Avenue Petain, which are still extant. Among the works that do not survive are the modernist residence on Route Magniny, a house on Route Paul Henry and (possibly) one Spanish-style and one modernist residence, both on Route de Sieyes. Rabinovich’s designs showcased his talent for creating artful buildings on irregularly shaped lots.

For a number of years Rabinovich was Consulting Architect at Standard Oil Co. in Nanking, where he led the restoration and rebuilding of war-damaged buildings of the company. He also served as the architect for the Recoletos Procuration, which the representative of the mission confirmed in 1947. Thanks to his encouragement and training, several of his younger colleagues became successful architects.

Rabinovich was a board member of  the Russian Jewish Club and a member of the Jewish Company of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps. He acted as a secretary of the committee for the construction of the New Ashkenazi Synagogue, on Route Tenant de la Tour, designed by his colleague Emmanuel Gran. According to the testimony of his daughter Isabel, Rabinovich participated in all the activities of the Russian Artistic and Literary Circle and was a dedicated member of ORT (Society for the Encouragement of Handicrafts). He contributed to the welfare of the European Jewish refugees in Shanghai in the 1940s.

In 1949, the Rabinovich and family moved to Israel, where the architect worked in civil building organizations and became a member of the Association of Engineers and Architects in Israel. His final project was the design of the Synagogue and Communal Center for Yigud Yotsei Sin (the Jewish Communities of China), in Tel Aviv. Partially funded with the proceeds of $10,000 from the sale of the Ashkenazi Synagogue in Shanghai in 1957, it opened in September 1961. The next year, Rabinovich died of a heart disease at the age of 63. 

Ohel Moshe Synagogue, Ward Road


Brookside Apartments, Avenue Haig


Lieu Ong Kee Building, Szechuen Road


Shanghai Power Co., Nanking Road


Bridge House Apartments, North Szechuen Road


Derring Apartments, Tsungming Road


Residence, Hungjao Road


residence, route de Sieyes


Koffman Apartments, Route Ferguson


Apartments, Avenue Joffre

c. 1939

Apartments, Avenue Petain

c. 1940

Residence, Route Sieyes


residence, rue Paul henry


Doumer Apartments, route Doumer


Residence, Muirhead Road


Board members of the Shanghai Jewish Club. Gabriel (Gava) Rabinovich is in top row, second from right. His twin brother David is in the bottom row, extreme left. Rena Krasno, Strangers Always.
Gabriel (Gava) and Rosetta Rabinovich (right), next to his twin brother David and his wife (left). Rena Krasno, Strangers Always.

Ohel Moishe Synagogue (1928)

"Alteration of house No. 58 Ward Road into a Jewish Prayer House." Floor plans of the Ward Road synagogue. Rena Krasno papers, Hoover Institution. 

Bridge House (1935)

Architect's drawing of the future Bridge House, August 1933. China Press
Sites of the New Asia Hotel and Apartments (A & B), Derring Apartments (C) and Bridge House (D). Builder 建筑月刊, 1934
Three projects of the Republic Land Investment. China Press, July 1935
Bridge House during construction, June 1934. China Press
Residents of the Bridge House Apartments in the courtyard, with the tennis courts behind. Moses Katz archive
Bridge House interiors showing results of the conversion to a prison, 1948. NCDN
Bridge House recently

Derring Apartments (1935)

Architect's drawing of the Derring Apartments, the facade on the corner of North Jiangxi Road and Chongming Road. Builder 建筑月刊, 1934
Typical floor plan of the Derring Apartments. Builder 建筑月刊, 1934
Northern facade of the Derring Apartments in 2008
Derring Apartments nowadays. Shine

Koffman Apartments (1935)

Architect's drawing of the Koffman Apartments, on Route Ferguson. Builder 建筑月刊, 1935
Sections and plans of the Koffman Apartments, on Route Ferguson. Builder 建筑月刊, 1935
Modern view of the Koffman Apartments, on Wukang Road 武康路, with an extra floor added. 上海徐汇

Doumer Apartments (1937–1941)

Doumer Apartments, architect's drawing; the year is cut off. Tess Johnston
Doumer Apartments. Rena Krasno Papers, Hoover Institution
Doumer Apartments, 43 Lane 56 Donghu Road 东湖路56弄43号. Images:
Doumer Apartments (left), in a company of three other Russian-designed buildings on Route Paul Henry, c. 1937. Naval History and Heritage Command
Design of a synagogue, built for Yigud Yotsei Sin (Jewish Communities of China) in Tel Aviv in September 1961. Rena Krasno Papers, Hoover Institution.

List of known works by Gabriel "Gava" Rabinovich

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