Monday, January 5, 2009

St Nicholas' Shanghai - Refurbished

I note the recent restoration of the St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Shanghai with interest pictured left with it's new lick of paint.

The former St Nicholas Russian Orthodox church on Gaolan Road (formerly Rue Corneille), originally completed in 1934 I think, was a pretty average but rather pleasant (ambience wise) restaurants in the 1990s and into the early 2000s called Ashanti Dome which served undistinguished Italian and/or French food after a fashion (i.e. nothing too memorable). There was also for a while a Spanish tapas restaurant called Boca on the ground floor for a while but the less said about that the better I think. Of course you went there for the architecture not some knocked up Eurotrash food however good or bad.

The only real reason for eating there when it was a restaurant was the drawings inside which were interesting though poorly preserved when I last saw them around 2002. The management used to say that they had been vandalised by the communists when a visiting delegation of Russians had been taken there at some point and all the tits painted over to spare anyone’s blushes – though it’s hard to imagine a Russian being blushing at the sight of a pair of breasts, the Chinese Communist Party could give the Plymouth Brethren a run in the prudery stakes.

It then shut for a while and during 2008 was the scene of feverish refurbishment. Before I knew it as a so-so restaurant it had had a number of former incarnations during the more surly communist period as a washing machine factory among other things. Apparently the Red Guards wanted to demolish it but concerned locals who rather liked their Church hung a picture of Chairman Mao on the outside and they left it alone. I note that the refurbishment seems to have been completed and certainly the old place looks the better for a lick of paint. What it is to become I have no idea - runmour says it's been restored as a church though how many practicing Russian Orthodox God Botherers there are in Shanghai I have no idea.

St Nicholas’s was one of several Orthodox churches in Shanghai – some are gone beneath the relentless bulldozers of course, a couple remain including St Nicholas and the Russian Mission Orthodox church on the corner of Xinle and Xiang Yang Roads (left, around the time of completion in the mid-1930s) that was completed about 1934-36 and throughout most of the 1990s was an early stock trading centre before becoming a restaurant and nightclub briefly, a venture that swiftly failed.

Whatever St Nicholas's becomes it's nice to have it back in seemingly decent shape - I'll try and get a look inside to see how well that went - regularShanghai architecture fans will know that while facades get preserved more these days in Shanghai the insides invariably get ripped out, so we'll see.


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