Kincheng Bank

金城银行 // Банк ”Кинченг“

200 Kiangse Road >> 200 Middle Jiangxi Road // 江西中路200号

Architects: Alexander Yaron and T. Chuang

Built in 1926–1927.

Kincheng Bank’s Shanghai headquarters was built on Kiangse Road, opposite the Municipal Council, in 1926–1927. Alexander Yaron, working as part of Lafuente and Yaron studio, specified in his CV that he had designed the building, but did not supervise its construction.

The ground was broken in 1925, and the Christmas issue of Shanghai Sunday Times published Yaron’s elevation drawing with a caption: “The building, at present in construction on Kiangse Road opposite the Shanghai Municipal Building, will be of reinforced concrete with granite stone facings. The ground and first floors will be occupied by the Bank and the second and third floors used as offices. It is probable that the top floor will be utilized as a club. The building, of which Messrs. Lafuente and Yaron are the architects, will cost one million taels.”

In August 1927, Yaron wrote to Lafuente, who was in Los Angeles, that Kincheng Bank was still not completed. When the opening was announced, in October 1927, the building was partially in scaffolding, and Lafuente and Yaron were no longer mentioned as architects. The English press credited T. Chuang (Zhuang Jun 庄俊) for the design of the building. Educated in the US, he had been resident architect at Tsing-Hua College in Peking for nine years prior to this project. He reportedly used American ideas in pursuing the “latest and most approved design” for the building. It is unclear if this was truly a joint project of Lafuente & Yaron and T. Chuang or the foreigners were sidelined at one point.

The facade of the finished building was somewhat different from Yaron’s original project. The five floors were distributed differently: four in the lower part and one above the cornice, not 3+2 as intended. The windows in the second floor now had arches and keystones above them; T. Chuang’s other projects indicate that he was fond of rows of arches. The central portico had an undulating pediment accommodating the bank’s logo. The building was ruled the “prettiest building among the Chinese banks” in Shanghai.

The press description in 1931 was as follows: “The building is an up-to-date structure. It has five stories of entirely fireproof reinforced concrete, with a facing of Soochow granite. The staircases, counters, wainscots, columns, balustrades, floors, window stools and door sills are all made of genuine marble from Italy.” [China Press, 12 Apr 1931] The vault, with a circular door by the York Safety Lock Co., resistant to melting and drilling, was the first of its kind in Shanghai, and it invited press tours and inspections.

Today’s sources tend to attribute the building wholly to T. Chuang – some even call it his representative neoclassical building – or mention a collaboration with 赍丰洋行 (the Chinese name of Lafuente and Yaron firm). T. Chuang designed a number of buildings, including Kincheng Bank’s headquarters in Hankow in 1933.

Elevation drawing of Kincheng Bank. Shanghai Sunday Times, Dec 1926.
Kincheng Bank in the final stages of construction. China Weekly Review, 29 Oct 1927.
Kincheng Bank soon after its opening. Shanghai Municipal Archive.
Entrance to Kincheng Bank. The Architect 建筑月刊, 1933.
Kincheng Bank, interior of the second floor. Far Eastern Review, March 1929.
Marble statuary by Bertucci in the main hall of Kincheng Bank. North-China Sunday News, 18 Jan 1931.
Present view of the facade. Wikipedia.