Sino-Soviet Friendship Hall
1000 Middle Yan’an Road // 延安中路1000号
Architecture: Viktor Andreev, Kaleria Kislova, Chen Zhi.
Construction engineering: Lev Gochman, Cai Xianyu.
Built in 1954–1955.
Viktor Semenovich Andreev (Виктор Семенович Андреев, 1908–1988) was among the first graduate students at the Moscow Architecture Academy, created in 1934. His early works were various exhibition pavilions and renovation projects in Moscow for government and diplomatic agencies. Andreev’s style epitomized Stalinist neoclaccisism, with its monumental grandeur, abundance of decor and historical elements. To promote Soviet architecture abroad, Andreev was engaged to construct USSR pavilions at various foreign conventions. In 1949, he was awarded the Stalin’s Prize.
The architect Kaleria Dmitrievna Kislova (Калерия Дмитриевна Кислова, 1918–1989) was Andreev’s wife and his collaborator on most of his projects. The engineer Lev Moiseevich Gochman (Лев Моисеевич (Михайлович) Гохман, 1909–1984) had worked on multiple large-scale projects, including the reconstruction of the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre and the first of the seven residential “Stalin’s skyscrapers” in Moscow.
In 1952, during the Moscow mission of Li Fuchun – Vice-Chairman of China’s Financial and Economic Committee – the Soviet hosts proposed to build two exhibition halls in Beijing and Shanghai, which would be analogous to VDNKh in Moscow. The construction of Beijing Exhibition Hall (北京展览馆), in Xizhimen district, began in October 1953; the project was authored by Andreev, Kislova and Gochman. A year later, the sprawling building, 100 meters tall, topped with a forty-meter spire and fronted by a giant fountain, hosted the first exposition of the Soviet industry and trade in China.
Simultaneously, a similar exhibition hall began to be constructed in Shanghai, on the site of the former Hardoon Garden. The process was rushed because of the Soviet bravado. In April 1954, the engineer Lev Gochman was surveying the future construction site in Shanghai, and during a banquet he unexpectedly announced that the ground will be broken on May 1, 1954. The date was picked up by journalists and made the headlines in the morning newspapers. After a panicked phone consultation with Andreev in Beijing, the Soviet team decided to bite the bullet and stick to their word.
Nineteen days before the beginning of the construction, the Shanghai exhibition hall had not even been designed. To assist Andreev, Kislova and Gochman, 70 Chinese architects and engineers were engaged, with Chen Zhi 陈植 (1902–2001) as the chief architect and Cai Xianyu 蔡显裕 (1911–1973) as the chief engineer. Chen Zhi turned down Andreev’s initial idea to put a Chinese-style pagoda in the center because that style had become to be associated with the Kuomintang rule. Having outlined five major parts of the building – the main hall, east wing, west wing, industrial hall and the cinema, separate teams worked out the detailed plans and elevation drawings. Within a week, the project was finalized. During the entire construction process, the Chinese team completed a total of 2,480 architectural drawings. By some accounts, the Shanghai-based Russian architect J. A. Yaron also participated in the project.
On May 1 the ground was broken. The construction went at a breakneck pace, and the building was finished in ten months. Various innovative technologies were tested on-site, such as mobile scaffolding and novel concrete constructions.
The resulting Sino-Soviet Friendship Hall (中苏友好大厦; Дворец советско-китайской дружбы) outshone its Beijing predecessor. It was a larger and more imposing building, of an unprecedented size for Shanghai. Its footprint exceeded 25,000 square meters, with the lot size of 95,000 square meters and the total built area of 54,000 square meters. Nothing this tall was constructed since the emergence of the Park Hotel in 1934. The Soviet engineers rejected the widespread pile-driving method, believing that the integrity of the entire structure should prevent the uneven sinking. They employed the box-foundation method for the heavier central building. The uneven settling, which occurred later, was apparently within the safety limits.
The central tower brought the total height of the building to over 110 m. On the tower, the gilded red copper spire weighing 32 tons supported the five-pointed gilded star made of fireproof red glass 1 cm thick; the spire and the star were covered with 15 kg of gold. Using the designs supplied by the Soviet colleagues, the Chinese artists carved and molded the intricate interior decorations, “infusing them with the inimitable Chinese style”, as Andreev recalled. Inside the exhibition hall, over 6,400 sq m of granite and 2,400 sq m of marble were laid, together with other expensive materials, including more gold.
The gate of glass and metal marked the central entrance with a four-columned portico, crowned with the letters “USSR” in Russian. In front of the portico, a sculpture by Lev Kerbel and Lev Muravin represented the Soviet and Chinese workers raising a star and a banner together. From March 15 to May 15, 1955, the new building hosted the two-month Exhibition of the Soviet Industry and Trade, which saw 57,000 daily visitors.
In the same year, Andreev, Kislova and Gochman created an exhibition complex in Guangzhou (中苏友好大厦), in collaboration with Lin Keming 林克明. Built between April and October 1955, it became the next site for the exposition of the Soviet achievements. The Guangzhou building had many of the elements of its predecessors, but not the spire, as the spires went out of fashion after Joseph Stalin’s death. In 1958–1961, Andreev and Kislova worked on the construction of a large hotel, Inya Lake Hotel, in Rangoon, Birma (now Yangon, Myanmar).
Upon his return to Moscow, Andreev was criticized for exuberance of his architecture. The USSR leader Nikita Khruschev accused him of “plugging his spires as far as Beijing and Shanghai”. Andreev was, however, already commissioned by the Chinese government to build a new embassy in Moscow. He purposefully simplified the exterior of the building and compensated by the opulence of the interiors. The Chinese Embassy was finished by the tenth anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, on October 1, 1959.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Viktor Andreev and Kaleria Kislova continued to work on various public buildings in Moscow and suburbs. Kislova became chief architect of the First Workshop at the Moscow Project Bureau (Mosproekt) and designed a number of residential multistory buildings, the Soviet Embassy in Bulgaria and a hotel in Guinea.
In 1968, Shanghai’s Sino-Soviet Friendship Hall was renamed Shanghai Exhibition Hall; in 1984 it became Shanghai Exhibition Center (上海展览中心). The facade was cleared of the Soviet symbols – the coat of arms, flags and hammer and sickle. The statues in front of the entrance had been removed in 1966, in the first year of the Cultural Revolution. In 2001, the exhibition hall underwent an extensive renovation and was deemed ready for 100 years more of service.