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China Papers: The architecture archives of the building company Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient (1907-59)

Thomas Coomans
Traduction de Jane MacAvock
Cet article est une traduction de :
Papiers de Chine : les archives d’architecture du Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient (1907-1959)

Résumés

Le Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient (CFEO) était une société belgo-française spécialisée en prêts hypothécaires et en financements d’infrastructures et de technologies modernes, mais également en construction et maintenance d’immeubles. De 1907 à 1959, une trentaine d’architectes, principalement belges et français, travaillèrent au service de cette compagnie en Chine, à Hong Kong et à Singapour. Après avoir introduit la problématique des archives d’entreprises belges en général et des entreprises belges en Chine, l’article présente l’histoire du CFEO et de ses archives, ainsi que les bureaux d’architecture, les architectes, les projets et les constructions. Outre les archives du siège central de la société à Bruxelles, les fonds complémentaires (architectes, clients, villes) et les sources monumentales (plus ou moins patrimonialisées) retiennent l’attention. Le potentiel et les limites des archives du CFEO pour l’historien de l’architecture servent de fil rouge à une approche critique.

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Entrées d’index

Indice de palabras clave :

archivos de empresa, arquitectura moderna

Index géographique :

Europe, Belgique, Asie, Chine

Index chronologique :

XXe siècle

Personnes citées :

Van Wylick Gabriel (1897-1964)
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Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 Edward Denison and Guang Yu Ren, Modernism in China. Architectural Visions and Revolutions, Chiches (...)

1Issues of architectural modernity and technology transfers in China at the end of the Empire and during the Republic have been a fashionable research subject since the beginning of the 21st century.1 The archives of Western companies and architects active in China during the first half of the 20th century attract architectural historians in search of information on buildings, architects and specific urban planning projects.

  • 2 René Brion and Jean-Louis Moreau, Inventaire des archives du Crédit Foncier d'Extrême-Orient et de (...)

2Among the company archive collections conserved in the Archives Générales du Royaume (the National Archives of Belgium abbreviated to AGR) in Brussels, those of the Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient (the Far East Land Property Credit Company, henceforth CFEO) have been accessible to researchers since 2000.2 This Belgian-French company with the code name of “Belfran,” was not only specialized in mortgage loans, financing of infrastructure and modern technology but also in the construction and maintenance of buildings. About thirty Western architects worked for this company in China, Hong Kong and Singapore from 1907 to 1959.

  • 3 Thomas Coomans and Leung-kwok Prudence Lau, “Les tribulations d’un architecte belge en Chine: Gusta (...)

3To date, the constructions of the CFEO in Tianjin and Hong Kong as well as the two architects who worked for the company for the longest period of time, Gabriel Van Wylick (1864—1964) et Gustave Volckaert (1888—1978), have been studied most.3 Projects in other cities such as Shanghai and Singapore, are still generally unexplored. The financial and speculative activities of the CFEO, the internal workings between the Brussels head office and the Far East, relations with Western and Chinese investment networks, competition with other construction finance companies, and links with Catholic missions are also elements of a fallow field of research.

4The potential and limits of the CFEO archives for the architectural historian serve as a governing principle to a critical approach. After introducing the problems associated with Belgian company archives in general and Belgian companies in China, the article presents an outline of the history of the CFEO and the structure of the archival collection before lingering on the workings of the architecture offices, the architects, projects and buildings. The collection is mainly comprised of archives from the company’s head office in Brussels and only partially covers the activities of the various branches. The heuristic issue of complementary archival sources kept by the families of agents who worked for the company, archives of clients of the CFEO and, of course, the archives of towns where the company was active, will also be addressed.

5Finally, a certain number of buildings constructed by the CFEO still survive in variable states of preservation, and are far from all being identified (fig. 1). The crucial role of the archives in the process of heritagization of these buildings will also be emphasized.

Figure 1: Belfran building in Tianjin, China (1927) and apartment building on Prince Edward Road in Kowloon, Hong Kong (1930).

Figure 1: Belfran building in Tianjin, China (1927) and apartment building on Prince Edward Road in Kowloon, Hong Kong (1930).

The heritagization of buildings erected by the CFEO in urban contexts that are undergoing dramatic changes has only recently been accepted.

THOC 2012 and 2013.

The Belgian “informal empire” in China and its archives

  • 4 General context, see: Michel Dumoulin, Vincent Dujardin, Emmanuel Gerard and Mark Van den Wijngaert(...)
  • 5 See the journal L’expansion belge, published from 1908 to 1914.

6One of the most industrialized countries in the world throughout the 19th century, Belgium needed the global market to export the products of its industry. 4 Unlike most Western nations, and despite the ambitions of King Leopold II who, in a personal capacity, rushed into the colonization of Congo Free State, Belgium did not carve out a colonial empire for itself through military expeditions and “politics of the gunboat”. Based on capital, knowledge and engineering, Belgian imperialism was peaceful, such as the various universal and international expositions organized in Brussels, Antwerp, Liège and Ghent. This “informal empire,” based on economic integration rather than a legal notion of empire, could also count on the collusion of Belgian catholic missions. Present on the five continents, the Belgian “informal empire” reached its greatest extent during the years 191014,5 and continued, adapting itself, after the First World War. The creation of the Belgian Congo in 1908 gave the country a colony with endless resources, which was highly attractive for Belgian companies. The colonial climax of the Belgian Congo can be dated between the Second World War and independence in 1960.

  • 6 Ginette Kurgan-Van Hentenryk, Léopold II et les groupes financiers en Chine. La politique royale et (...)
  • 7 L’expansion belge, vol. 3, no. 1, January 1910; Chine et Belgique. Revue économique publiée mensuel (...)
  • 8 Daniël Verhelst and Nestor Pycke (eds.), C.I.C.M. Missionaries, Past and Present 1862-1987. History (...)

7Although China attracted Belgian investors and missionaries from the 1860s, it is especially after 1900 that major investments began to take place in various industrial, financial and commercial sectors, such as banking, railways, metallurgy and real estate.6 The most famous companies were the Banque Sino-Belge, the Compagnie Financière Belgo-Chinoise, the Société Belge d’Entreprise en Chine, the Compagnie Générale des Chemins de Fer en Chine and the CFEO. The Beijing-Hankou (present Wuhan) railway line, the mines of Lincheng, the trams of Tientsin and the steel mills of Hanyang were among the most successful results of the Belgian “informal empire”. 7 In addition, numerous Belgian missionaries worked in China, in particular the Scheut Fathers in Mongolia and the Franciscans in Yichang, from the 1860s and 1870s respectively. 8 The political circumstances in China, instability under the Republic from 1911, Japanese invasion and occupation from 1937 to 1945, civil war from 1945 to 1949 – were not favourable to Western investment which increasingly retreated to the international concessions of the treaty ports and Hong Kong. All Western interests were gradually nationalized between 1949 and 1955.

8The issue of private archives of Belgian companies is therefore complex because it covers over two centuries and has a highly international dimension. The archives of numerous companies have completely disappeared due to bankruptcies, restructurings, takeovers, the two World Wars, etc. In addition, the heritagization process of company archives and industrial buildings is recent and fits into the context of a regionalized Belgium in search of new identities. Created in 1985, the Association pour la Sauvegarde et l’Exploitation des Archives Industrielles Belges stimulated the development of the archives of a few major groups.9 In 1986, the AGR organised the first study day “Sauvegarde et exploitation des archives d'entreprises(The Protection and Utilization of Company Archives)10. A result of the fractioning of the Belgian cultural landscape is that archives, including those from companies, are conserved in State Archives and at the Royal Museum of Central Africa,11 but also on a regional, provincial and local level, without forgetting private archives.12

  • 13 Compagnie Financière Belgo-Chinoise, Société Belge d’Entreprises en Chine, Compagnie de Tramways et (...)
  • 14 A large part is conserved in Leuven at KADOC, Documentation and Research Centre for Religion, Cultu (...)
  • 15 URL: http://www.china-institute.be/francais.html. Accessed 21 August 2014.

9The archives relating to Belgian interests in China are fragmentary. In the best cases, only the archives of the head offices of companies in Belgium are conserved, while those of the branches in China are either lost or inaccessible. The AGR conserve several collections from Belgian companies active in China other than the CFEO.13 In addition, the archives of missionary mother houses,14 of the Institut Belge des Hautes Études chinoises,15 and of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are significant additional resources.

Rise and fall of the Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient

  • 16 Historical notes, 1921–57: AGR, CFEO, 8. See: René Brion and Jean-Louis Moreau, Inventaire des arch (...)
  • 17 The French Jesuits and Lazarists (or Vincentians) of Tianjin feared the consequences of the French (...)
  • 18 Statutes, 1907-58, article 3: AGR, CFEO, 1-2, 4 and 302.
  • 19 Historical notes, 1921-57: AGR, CFEO, 8.

10No detailed history of the Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient (Far East Land Credit Company) in Chinese 义品放款银行 Yi pin fangkuan yinhang or 义品地产公司 Yi pin dichan gongsi has yet been written. The following lines are based on historical notes from the archives of the CFEO and the introduction to the inventory.16 The Société Franco-Belge de Tientsin, a Belgian law limited company, was established on 3 August 1907 with the aim of exploiting 14 hectares of real estate bought from French missionaries in Tianjin.17 Belgian and French groups constituted the initial capital while the Belgian company, Banque d'Outremer, was responsible for its management. The company’s head office was in Brussels and an office soon opened in Paris. After extending its investments to Shanghai, the company changed its name to Crédit Foncier d'Extrême-Orient in 1910. In addition to guaranteed mortgages and the financing of infrastructure for public or private works (water, gas, telephones, telegraph, trams, electricity, etc.) the statutes specify that the CFEO could produce construction materials and engage in any possible activity on the real estate market, on its own behalf or for others.18 The young company grew remarkably, opening branches in Hankou and Hong Kong in 1911, in Beijing in 1915 and in Jinan in 1918, as well as brickworks in Tiajnin and Shanghai (fig. 2).19 Each branch of the CFEO had an architecture office whose size depended on the volume of business.

Figure 2: Letterhead of the CFEO in Shanghai, 1930 and 1919, and share issued in 1946.

Figure 2: Letterhead of the CFEO in Shanghai, 1930 and 1919, and share issued in 1946.

AGR-AE, CFEO, and private collection.

  • 20 Notably: Chris Elder, China’s Treaty Ports: Half Love and Half Hate, an anthology, Hong Kong; New Y (...)
  • 21 C.F.E.O. was a founding partner of Credit Estates Company Ltd in 1937: A.G.R., C.F.E.O., 463-472.
  • 22 AGR, CFEO, 1210-1325. This company will not be analysed in the present article.
  • 23 AGR, CFEO, 1-93.

11From 1927, due to political instability and increased administrative checking, the company restrained its activities to the concession territories, in particular Tianjin and Shanghai. These exterritorial enclaves in the Chinese treaty ports had been conceded to certain Western countries and Japan at the end of the Empire.20 In parallel, the CFEO redeveloped its business in neighbouring countries under the British colonial regime, giving greater weight to its Hong Kong branch, opening a new branch in Singapore in 1928 and starting activities in Malaysia. The Great Depression of the 1930s had a profound effect on the CFEO, which nevertheless benefitted from the growth in the real estate market in Hong Kong where Chinese and continental refugees were converging.21 The Japanese invasion of China reached Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai in 1937. From 1942, the Japanese also controlled the Hong Kong and Singapore branches, seized the properties and occupied the offices. Although a few Belgians managed to escape from China and reach the Belgian Congo, most of the employees were imprisoned in Japanese camps from September 1944 to August 1945. The Chinese civil war from 1947 to 1949 and the Communist party’s victory forced Western companies to adapt to the new legislation of the People’s Republic of China. In 1955, just after the Korean War, all foreign companies were forced to leave continental Chinese territory. The CFEO therefore closed its branches in Tianjin and Shanghai and retreated to Hong Kong and Singapore, continuing to earn some profits. From 1952, it attempted to redeploy to Northern Africa with its short-lived subsidiary, the Société Hypothécaire de Tanger (The Tanger Mortgage Company).22 After selling most of the real estate in Hong Kong and Singapore, the CFEO’s management decided to liquidate the company and to transfer its assets to a new company called the Crédit Foncier International (The International Land Credit Company). The liquidation lasted from 1959 to 1991.23

12The core of the CFEO’s business was mortgage lending as well as any transactions generating profits from real estate investments, such as the purchase and sale of land and buildings, the construction and acquisition of buildings for renting them out, the management and maintenance of structures belonging to the company or to others, etc. At this stage of research, it is not possible to quantify the percentages of these categories of activities, nor to compare the strategy of different branches and how they developed from 1907 to 1959. The CFEO never reached a sufficient critical mass to allow it to specialize in certain types of constructions; any deal was worth pursuing. Also, the CFEO’s activities varied from one place to another based on the specificity of the local market and those involved in it, including competition from other Western companies. Thus the French concession of Tianjin was quite different to the British colony of Hong Kong: not only the language and the currency, but also the legislation, the rules of the market and competition. For this reason, the CFEO had to find a balance between some mobility of its executives, and maintaining agents in a specific office because of their integration into the local markets and networks.

13The decision making structure of the company had three levels: the head office in Brussels, the branches and, between these, the “China management”. The branches had to refer any decision to Brussels head office and the China management. Branches communicated with each other through the China management which made frequent inspection visits to the branches. Correspondence was usually created in triplicate respectively for the sender, the recipient and the intermediary. Letters to and from Brussels were sent by the Trans-Siberian and then by boat when the Russian route was stopped. Telegrams addressed to “Belfran” were in code. During the war, communications were disrupted and even stopped in 19445. The location and form of the China management varied depending on circumstances. During the company’s years of glory, the 1920s, there was a Northern management (Tianjin, Beijing, Jinan) and a Southern management (Shanghai, Hankou, Hong Kong). Afterwards, the China management was united and based in Shanghai during the 1930s, finally in Hong Kong in the 1950s. Each branch had a director who managed a team of Western agents responsible for finance, accounting, insurance, legal elements and architecture as well as several Chinese employees involved in physical and maintenance tasks.

The archive collections: general structure and interest for the architectural historian

  • 24 The archives of C.F.E.O. is conserved in depot A.G.R.2, Joseph Cuvelier, 26-28 rue du Houblon, Brus (...)
  • 25 René Brion and Jean-Louis Moreau, Inventaire des archives du Crédit Foncier d'Extrême-Orient et de (...)
  • 26 Idem, p. XVI.

14The CFEO’s archive collection was transferred by the Société Générale de Belgique to the AGR in 2000. 24 René Brion and Jean-Louis Moreau, of the Association pour la Valorisation des Archives d’Entreprises, acted as intermediaries and drew up an inventory of the collection.25 The volume of archives is 30 linear metres and 1209 articles. The archives are in French; “they are classified based on the company’s organizational chart and the classification plans used by archive producers.” 26 Most of the collection is comprised of archives from the Brussels head office which are relatively complete given the number of reports sent to the head office. Nevertheless it remains difficult to evaluate the proportion of shares sent back to Belgium after the branches in China were closed. A lot seems to have been lost or destroyed during the Japanese occupation because there are large gaps for the period prior to 193741 while the period 194655 is better covered. In all likelihood selective destructions occurred in China when the branches were closed in 1955.

15The collection is structured in ten sections. The first three relate to creations, by-laws and agreements binding the company, to general meetings and to powers of attorney. The fourth section covers operations. It is the largest (628 articles) and contains general documents, staff, finances, the management of properties owned by the company, the management of buildings for others, and legal issues in a systematic way for the Paris office, the China management and each branch (Tianjin, Shanghai, Hankou, Hong Kong, Beijing, Jinan, Singapore and Ipoth). The sixth and seventh sections relate to the financial department (capital, portfolio and cash flow) as well as general accounting and the accounting of the branches. The seventh section covers the staff and includes amongst other things individual files on all the employees, in other words, 196 people among whom 31 architects. The eighth and ninth sections relate to minor litigations and to the management of the head office building in Brussels. The tenth section, finally, contains correspondence.

16The most interesting sources for the architectural historian are the personnel files on the architects and the individual files on the buildings (Tianjin, Shanghai, Hankou, Hong Kong, Beijing, Jinan, Singapore and Ipoth) (fig. 3). The 31 architects were of different nationalities and varied training: 14 Belgians, 9 French, 3 Swiss, 2 Portuguese, 1 English, 1 Russian and 1 Chinese person. The first two architects were the Frenchmen Henry Charrey and Marcel Conversy. Most of the personnel files contain a curriculum vitae, application and recommendation letters, contracts, internal assessments, stipends, expense reimbursements, correspondence, sometimes a photograph and an inventory of moveable property. The volume of these files depends on the architects’ length of service. Like many colonial agents, they were hired for a period of three years after which they had a furlough of six months, they returned to Europe and could join again for a new term.

Figure 3: Personnal files of architects and plans from individual building files.

Figure 3: Personnal files of architects and plans from individual building files.

House at 62 Barker Road on the Peak in Hong Kong, Gustave Volckaert, 1948.

AGR-AE, CFEO, 438.

17The individual files on buildings relate only to constructions that belonged to the CFEO. These were either acquired or built by the company. The files include basic information: general details, photographic reproductions of title deeds and land registration deeds (the originals being “in the vault”), maintenance, occupants, progression of rents and profitability, sometimes a photo and plans (fig. 4). Some files contain annotated photos allowing the progression of subdivisions to be followed and the buildings to be placed in their context (fig. 5). These files cover no less than 207 buildings: 30 in Tianjin, 19 in Shanghai, 6 in Hankou, 6 in Jinan, 51 in Hong Kong, 1 in Beijing, and 94 in Singapore. The plans make a distinction between types of habitation for Chinese people, Westerners as well as “semi-European houses”. They provide a useful source for the study of how expatriates in China and Chinese members of the new middle classes lived. Unfortunately the buildings designed and built by the CFEO for other parties are not the subject of individual files.

Figure 4: Rue de France in Tianjin, China and Prince Edward Road in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Figure 4: Rue de France in Tianjin, China and Prince Edward Road in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Building files often contain photographs of title deeds, extracts from the land registry and plans of the subdivisions.

AGR-AE, CFEO, 172 and 394.

Figure 5: Taku Road in Tianjin, China (1927), and Boundary Street in Kowloon, Hong Kong (1931).

Figure 5: Taku Road in Tianjin, China (1927), and Boundary Street in Kowloon, Hong Kong (1931).

Examples of annotated photos.

AGR-AE, CFEO, 177 and 442.

  • 27 Not mentioned in the inventory of CFEO. I consulted these albums in January 2012 at the central dep (...)
  • 28 Léo Mendelssohn (Paris 1894 – Paris 1965), architect DPLG, worked in Tianjin and Shanghai for C.F.E (...)

18Finally, the AGR has ten photo albums: eight relating to the CFEO’s work in Tianjin, and two (badly damaged) of the Shanghai brickworks in 1931 and photos of soldiers in the 1920s.27 The visual documentation for Tianjin is therefore rich and varied. Two albums date from 1920 and include respectively photos of buildings erected with loans from the company and buildings belonging to the company. Two albums are devoted to structures erected by the CFEO respectively in 1922 and 1932. Four other albums (two copies of one exist) are devoted to the three most prestigious creations of the CFEO in Tianjin: the Belfran building, designed by the architect Léo Mendelssohn in 1927 as well as the Municipal Building of the French Concession and the Cercle Français, designed by the architects Mendelssohn and Marcel Guillet in 1931 and 1932 (fig. 6 and fig. 7).28

Figure 6: Belfran building, Rue de France in Tianjin, China, Léon Mendelssohn (arch.), 1927.

Figure 6: Belfran building, Rue de France in Tianjin, China, Léon Mendelssohn (arch.), 1927.

Photographic reproduction of a presentation drawing.

AGR-AE, CFEO, 172.

Figure 7: Cercle Français (1932), and Hôtel Municipal of the French Concession (1931) in Tianjin, China.

Figure 7: Cercle Français (1932), and Hôtel Municipal of the French Concession (1931) in Tianjin, China.

Official photos taken by professional photographers.

AGR-AE, CFEO, Albums.

  • 29 AGR, CFEO, 223, 282 and 556.

19The historian who wishes to go beyond the study of buildings and architects will find in the collection information on construction materials, technical installations, the rental market, the company’s real estate strategy, Chinese employees, relations with builders and local intermediaries (the compradores),29 the social life of expatriates in the concessions, competition between western interests, favoured links between Belgian and French interests, etc.

Architectural offices and architects’ archives

20The study of architects’ careers is essential for the assessment of their contribution to the transfer of architectural influences in China. How were these architects trained and what were their reasons for making their career in China? How was their work organized and what were their relations with Chinese architects and builders? How did they keep up to date with progress in modern architecture in Europe and the USA? How did architectural modernity develop from the academic style up to Modernism? Where did construction materials that were not available in China come from? What were the first applications of technical innovations in terms of sanitary comfort, electricity, air conditioning, and who were the clients for these? So many questions among others to which the student can try to find answers in architectural archives like those of the CFEO.

  • 30 Notably offices for the Chinese post at Jinan and Kaifeng.
  • 31 Exceptionally Gabriel Van Wylick was authorised to draw in 1938 the plans of a villa for M. Verlind (...)

21Each branch of the CFEO had an “architectural office,” whose size depended on the volume of business. Their duties included the design of new buildings, supervising works, assessing terrain and buildings before purchase, the transformation of existing buildings, contact with builders and supervisors, selecting construction materials, and all the other skills that are possible in the field. Design activity depended on the situation and strategy of the CFEO. When a new construction project was decided upon, the architect and his Chinese draftsmen worked intensively, but in downturns the architect would have to work for outside parties who paid the CFEO for his work. The architects of the CFEO not only designed buildings belonging to the company, but also individual houses for private clients, offices and structures for other Western and Chinese investors, schools and religious houses for the missionaries, and sometimes buildings for the Chinese state (fig. 8).30 In fact, the architect had to justify his full time salary by generating more work when needed, given the fact that his contract prohibited him from developing any personal business.31

Figure 8: Model of Yien Yieh Commercial Bank in Hankou, designed by the British architects Hemmings & Berkley and built by the CFEO (1927); draftsmen at work in the Hong Kong office c. 1950.

Figure 8: Model of Yien Yieh Commercial Bank in Hankou, designed by the British architects Hemmings & Berkley and built by the CFEO (1927); draftsmen at work in the Hong Kong office c. 1950.

L’Émulation, vol. 9, no. 47, September 1927, p. 103; Archives Jean Volckaert.

  • 32 In an article Van Wylick suggests that he designed himself the building, while, in all likelihood, (...)
  • 33 AGR, CFEO, 445.

22Beyond individual biographical data and the information on the buildings belonging to the CFEO, it is not possible to establish a full catalogue of the architects’ works. The plans that came from the architectural offices bear the CFEO name, are signed by the architect-head of office and sometimes bear the name of the architect in charge of the file, even of the Chinese draftsmen. Conversely, the projects for outside parties, with only a few exceptions, are not documented in the archives. The two photo albums showing the CFEO’s creations in 1922 and 1932 include the names of clients that do not appear in the archives, but do not identify the architects. Furthermore it was not rare for the CFEO to limit its involvement to managing the construction of buildings designed by other architectural firms and only having to draw up execution plans or calculate concrete. For example, the head office of Yien Yieh Commercial Bank in Hankou, designed by the British architectural firm Hemmings & Berkley, was built under the supervision of the CFEO and of architect Gabriel Van Wylick in 1927.32 In Hong Kong, the architects had to have a licence allowing them to exercise the profession (authorized architect) and they sometimes signed plans drawn up by builders who didn’t have the licence “out of kindness.”33 This complicates the question of attributions even more.

  • 34 AGR, CFEO, 1117 (in 1933).
  • 35 AGR, CFEO, 142 (Tianjin), 218, 221–223 (Shanghai), 281–282 (Hankou), 338–342 (Hong Kong), 490 (Jina (...)
  • 36 Gabriel Van Wylick, “L’architecture contemporaine en Chine,” op. cit. (note 31), p. 102.
  • 37 The names of Tchan Houa, I.L. Tchang and Y.L. Tien are mentioned on plans for Hoangho Paiho museum (...)

23The architects began their career at the CFEO as architect-draftsman under the supervision of the architect-head of office who in turn were under the director of the local branch of the CFEO whose responsibility covered all the company’s activities. Max Ouang, from Shanghai, who trained at the Brussels Academy is the only Chinese architect to have worked for the CFEO: the experience was not successful because after less than a year he set up on his own, taking some of the company’s clients.34 Conversely, the CFEO employed auxiliary Chinese staff,35 starting with draftsmen about whom Gabriel Van Wylick wrote: “With time and patience, we manage to train some very skilful ones, because they are meticulous and patient. They generally make great tracers and I have known some who were capable of developing any execution plans when you gave them a simple sketch.” 36 The names of only a few Chinese draftsmen have been observed on plans.37

24Only one architect became an office head, Gabriel Van Wylick, in Hong Kong from 1931 to 1946, after having been head of an architecture office in the same city from 1927 to 1931. With Léo Mendelssohn, who has already been mentioned, Van Wylick was the most brilliant architect of the CFEO. If the first epitomized French academic architecture at the transition between the Beaux-Arts and Art Deco styles, the second quickly evolved towards Modernism of which he was one of the players in Hong Kong during the 1930s.

  • 38 Rhode-Saint-Genèse, private archives Edouard Van Wylick. With all my gratitude to family Van Wylick (...)
  • 39 Personal file of Gabriel Van Wylick, Archives of the S.C.A.B. at the Archives and Architecture Libr (...)
  • 40 Gabriel Van Wylick, “L’architecture contemporaine en Chine,” op. cit. (note 31), p. 99–103.
  • 41 AGR, CFEO, 273–296.

25Thanks to two complementary archive collections, it has been possible to reconstitute the entire career of Gabriel Van Wylick who was born in Saint-Josse-ten-Node in 1897 and trained at the Brussels Academy. On the one hand, the family archives of his son Edouard, born in China in 1926, have photo albums, in particular of his journeys to the USA in 1919 and 1934, a few drawings and sketches, a precious scrap-book in which the architect stuck press cuttings and photos of buildings that inspired him, as well as documents relating to his later Congolese period.38 The family does not have any archives of the CFEO but of the two houses that Van Wylick built for himself at Hankou and Brussels. On the other hand, the archives of the Société Centrale d’Architecture de Belgique (Central Architecture Society of Belgium) (S.C.A.B.), of which he was a member from 1925 to 1966 has information on his career in the Belgian Congo after his departure from the CFEO in 1946.39 Finally, in 1927 Van Wylick published an article in L’Émulation, the architecture journal of the S.C.A.B. on his work at Hankou.40 This first hand source contains architectural reflections and throws a different light on the activities of the CFEO to the sparse archives relating to Hankou at the AGR.41

  • 42 Montreux, private archives Jean Volckaert. With all my gratitude to family Volckaert. On Gustave Vo (...)

26The case of an architect who was active on three continents is exceptional, but does illustrate the limits of the archive collections of the CFEO and the need for complementary research. The case of the architect Gustave Volckaert, who worked for the CFEO at Tianjin from 1914 to 1922 and from 1934 to 1946, then in Hong Kong from 1947 to 1954, also requires complementary research in Belgian archives to cover his period of activity in Ghent from 1923 to 1933 as well as in the family archives (fig. 9).42

Figure 9: Cercle Sino-Français in Beijing, China (1919), and chapel of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Hong Kong (1950), by Gustave Volckaert; sketch by Gabriel Van Wylick, Tianjin, China (c. 1920).

Figure 9: Cercle Sino-Français in Beijing, China (1919), and chapel of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Hong Kong (1950), by Gustave Volckaert; sketch by Gabriel Van Wylick, Tianjin, China (c. 1920).

Family albums and architects’ sketchbooks are precious complementary sources.

Archives Jean Volckaert and Archives Edouard Van Wylick.

Other archival resources

27The researcher cannot limit his or her heuristic solely to the archival collections of the companies and architects. He or she will find complementary archives in municipal collections of the cities in which the companies were active as well as in the archive collections of clients, both public and private. A tool that should not be neglected is the local press because it echoed new constructions, giving the names of the architects, the companies and those who commissioned them. Journals such as The Hongkong and Far East Builder and South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, or The Builder and North China Herald in Shanghai, overflow with factual data (dates, names and often photos and plans), but also with critical commentaries. The China Architects and Builders Compendium, the annual directory published in Shanghai during the years 192331 is another indispensable tool.

  • 43 The Japanese partially invaded the foreign concessions of Tianjin in 1939 and Shanghai in 1941, ann (...)
  • 44 The content of these archives remains unknown as long the inventories are not public.
  • 45 Tianjin Municipal Archives, J2-3-1463, J93-1-481, J44-2-206441, J90-1-1334, J25-3-2225-29, J170-1-4 (...)
  • 46 Licheng Zhou, “Tianjin dang’anguan zujie dang’an gaikuang jigi kaifa liyong” [The general situation (...)
  • 47 Several selective books were published, such as: Tianjin ying zujie gong buju. Shiliao xuanbian [Br (...)

28The precise contents of the archives of Western companies conserved in municipal collections in the People’s Republic of China is hard to evaluate. It appears that numerous archives were destroyed by the companies themselves to escape from the Japanese from 1937, then at the time of their enforced closure by the Communists.43 Access to inventories of the archives in municipal collections in China is not easy either for Western researchers or for their Chinese colleagues. The fear that consulting the archives of foreign concessions and Western companies would risk reviving old disputes, in particular in terms of real estate ownership, does not seem to be fully extinguished. The archives conserved in China seem to relate primarily to the land registry and building permits.44 At a conference in Tianjin in September 2013, the heads of the local municipal archives on the one hand extolled the wealth of their collections – in referring explicitly to Yi pin, in other words the CFEO45  – and on the other, explained their policy for the publication of sources.46 This consists of translating into Chinese a selection of documents relating to the foreign concessions and publishing them.47 The archives of Tianjin have systematically interviewed witnesses from the period of the concessions and in addition sent Chinese researches to the major archive collections in Europe to make photographic copies of all the documents relating to Tianjin.

  • 48 Only one real estate complex of CFEO has been studied when it was renovated: Lin Wei, Fuxing yipin (...)
  • 49 Hong Kong Public Records Office. Some files, notably HKRS 58-1, HKRS156-1, HKRS113-2-107. Courtesy (...)
  • 50 Leung-kwok Prudence Lau, Adaptive Modern and Speculative Urbanism: The Architecture of the Crédit F (...)
  • 51 Hong Kong Museum of History, Resource Centre: URL: http://hk.history.museum/en_US/web/mh/collection (...)

29We do not know if archives of the CFEO are present in the municipal archives of Shanghai,48 Wuhan (for the head office at Hankou) and Singapore. The CFEO archives in Hong Kong seem to be limited,49 and the recent studies on the urban development of Kowloon are mainly based on archives conserved in Belgium.50 The Hong Kong Museum of History has an active policy of collecting audio-visual material from former Colonial agents. In this way, the Van Wylick family has sent copies of old photographs.51

  • 52 Brussels, Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, B 108 VII, map Peking, diverse works.
  • 53 For example: AGR, Compagnie de Tramways et d’Éclairage de Tientsin, 572, 638-639.
  • 54 Present BNP Paribas-Fortis, seat of Brussels. Courtesy Jean-Louis Moreau.

30A final lead for research, and not the least, is that of the clients, in as much as they have been identified and their archives have been conserved. The clients of the CFEO included Chinese and foreign authorities in the concessions, foreign and Chinese private companies, missionary companies and institutions, and Chinese foreign individuals. Chance allowed us to discover, in the diplomatic archives conserved at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brussels, a file relating to the refurbishment of accommodation for the guard of the Belgian legation in Beijing by the CFEO in 191822.52 The archives of the Tientsin Tramway Company contain some files relating to the CFEO.53 Plans of the building of the Banque Belge pour l’Étranger at Tianjin, designed by Gustave Volckaert in 1922, have recently be found in the archives of the former Société Générale de Banque.54

  • 55 See note 16.
  • 56 AGR, CFEO, 445 (for the years 1927-1952).
  • 57 Rome, Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu; Vanves, Archives de la Compagnie de Jésus, Province de Cham (...)
  • 58 Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, Causeway Bay, 1928. See: Bulletin de la Société des Missions Étran (...)

31The CFEO also benefited from the confidence of Catholic missionaries. Not only did the company’s initial real estate property come from the Lazarists and Jesuits of Tianjin,55 but the administrators were recruited among the Belgian and French Catholic high bourgeoisie and aristocracy. The archives of the CFEO provide little information about this aspect and do not have much information on the work done for outside parties. In Hong Kong, a city dominated by English speaking companies, the CFEO benefitted from a large share of the market of French Catholic missionaries such as the Société des Missions Étrangères de Paris (Society of Foreign Missionaries of Paris),56 the sisters of Saint-Paul from Chartres, the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Carmelites, the Trappists on the island of Lantao, but also from orders from other countries, such as the Maryknoll Sisters. In Tientsin, the CFEO built the Hoangho Paiho museum on behalf of the French Jesuits of the School for Higher Industrial and Commercial Studies.57 This list of “Catholic” projects is undoubtedly much less than reality and does not include real estate speculation in which the missionary societies indulged in the concessions. It is certain that the archives of these missionary societies contain additional information. Beyond the missionaries, Catholics in the cosmopolitan cities of China formed networks of influence which were found in the parish churches, schools, hospitals, but also among diplomats, soldiers etc. The CFEO’s interest in having its name appear on the foundation stone on the façade of the Chapel of Christ the King in Hong Kong is thus comprehensible (fig. 10).58

Figure 10: A few buidings bear the CFEO’s brand.

Figure 10: A few buidings bear the CFEO’s brand.

Partially hammered inscription on the Belfran building in Tianjin; Belfran Road in Kowloon; foundation stone of the church of Christ the King in Hong Kong, 1928.

THOC 2013.

Conclusion: heritagization and shared heritage

  • 59 Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China, New York: Norton, 1990, p. 245–540.

32The half-century during which the CFEO existed corresponds to a period of great political and social transformation in China, from the end of the Qing Empire in 1911 to the birth of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, via the Republic of China founded in 1912 and progressive occupation by the Japanese from 1931 to 1945.59 The CFEO thus traversed a turbulent and fascinating period of “grand history” and its archives abound in allusions to the political, social and economic context. Through its real estate and architectural activity, we can consider that the CFEO contributed to the foundational period of modern China.

33Even more than the archival sources, it is the monumental sources that constitute the CFEO’s major contribution to the modernisation of architecture in China. By their style, their composition, their construction and their location in the public space, these buildings have, in their way, introduced Western ideas, forms, techniques and ways of life into China. At the time of great challenges in modern Western architecture, the CFEO and others echoed them in the Orient, while adapting to a greater or lesser extent to local realities. For example, the detailed study of plans would allow an understanding of how depending on clients, the arrangement of expatriates’ and Chinese people’s houses and apartments evolved and adapted to modern comfort in function of their respective traditions. The CFEO however does not seem to have either designed or built structures in the “Chinese Renaissance” style that was dear to the nationalists of the Kuomintang.

  • 60 Thomas Coomans, “A Pragmatic Approach to Church Construction in Northern China at the Time of Chris (...)

34All the workers who erected the CFEO buildings and which we see in the photos of building sites were Chinese (fig. 11). More than the studio, it is the building site that was the place of learning and technological transfer,60 of the materialization of new ideas, one of the main, and most visible, ways of modernity.

Figure 11: Church of the Maryknoll Sisters in Kowloon, Hong Kong (1952), and building works in Tianjin, China (1932).

Figure 11: Church of the Maryknoll Sisters in Kowloon, Hong Kong (1952), and building works in Tianjin, China (1932).

Photos of building sites provide information on construction, the workers and how work was organized.

AGR-AE, CFEO, 1174-1175 and Album.

35If it is impossible to establish the number of buildings the CFEO erected in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, it is equally impossible to quantify the number of buildings that survive. The most prestigious amongst them have become historical monuments, such as the Belfran building, the Municipal building of the French concession, and the Cercle Français at Tianjin, Yien Yieh Commercial Bank in Hankou (Wuhan), St. Teresa’s church in Kowloon, the chapel of Christ the King and the buildings on Barker Road on the Peak in Hong Kong. The heritagization of residential estates by the CFEO such as Yi-pin Estate in Shanghai, Belfran Road and Prince Edward Road in Kowloon, and Holland Road in Singapore, is much more difficult to achieve both due to speculation and considerable property pressure as to the absence of systematic inventories and patrimonial methods of assessment.

36The heritagization of inter-war architecture is in its infancy but is advancing, in particular thanks to docomomo, the international committee for documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of the modern movement. In fact, docomomo Hong Kong was founded in 2012 and docomomo China en 2013.61 In this process, recourse to documentation and archival sources is essential because it contributes to basic knowledge and is an indispensable complement to the monumental sources. Only collaboration between Chinese and European researchers can lead to the optimal valorisation of this shared heritage,62 and give their true significance to the China papers conserved in European archival collections.

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Notes

1 Edward Denison and Guang Yu Ren, Modernism in China. Architectural Visions and Revolutions, Chichester; Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2008; Peter G. Rowe and Seng Kuan, Architectural Encounters with Essence and Form in Modern China, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002; Jianfei Zhu, Architecture of Modern China: A Historical Critique, London; New York: Routledge, 2009; Denong Zou, Zhongguo xiandai jianzhu shi [History of Modern Architecture in China], Tianjin, 2001; Subin Xu, Jindai Zhongguo jianzhu de dansheng [The Beginnings of Chinese Modern Architecture], Tianjin: Tianjin da xue chu ban she, 2010; Jeffrey Cody, Building in China: Henry K. Murphy’s Adaptive Architecture, 1914-1935, Hong Kong: Chinese University Press; Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001.

2 René Brion and Jean-Louis Moreau, Inventaire des archives du Crédit Foncier d'Extrême-Orient et de sa filiale, la Société Hypothécaire de Tanger: 1907-1991, Online inventory, Brussels: Association pour la valorisation des archives d'entreprises, 2000. URL: http://www.avae-vvba.be/PDF/Credit_Foncier_d_Extreme-Orient.pdf. Accessed 21 August 2014.

3 Thomas Coomans and Leung-kwok Prudence Lau, “Les tribulations d’un architecte belge en Chine: Gustave Volckaert, au service du Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient, 1914-1954,” Revue Belge d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de l’Art/Belgisch tijdschrift voor oudheidkunde en kunstgeschiedenis, vol. 81, 2012, p. 129–53; Leung-kwok Prudence Lau and Thomas Coomans, “Modern Architectural Influences of Western Construction Companies in China. The Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient, 1907–1959,” in Austin Williams and Theodoros Dounas (eds.), Masterplanning the Future – Modernism: East, West & Across the World, Suzhou: Transport Research Publications, 2012, p. 69–77; Marine Sedan, Le patrimoine urbain de l’ex-concession française de Tianjin (18611946), Master Erasmus Mundus TPTI, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris; Universidade de Evora, Evora; Università di Padova, Padua, 2012; Leung-kwok Prudence Lau, Adaptive Modern and Speculative Urbanism: The Architecture of the Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient (C.F.E.O.) in Hong Kong and China’s Treaty Ports, 1907-1959, PhD dissertation in architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, October 2013.

4 General context, see: Michel Dumoulin, Vincent Dujardin, Emmanuel Gerard and Mark Van den Wijngaert (eds.), Nouvelle histoire de Belgique, Brussels: Éditions Complexe, 9 vol., 2005-2011 (Questions à l'histoire).

5 See the journal L’expansion belge, published from 1908 to 1914.

6 Ginette Kurgan-Van Hentenryk, Léopold II et les groupes financiers en Chine. La politique royale et ses prolongements, Brussels: Palais des Académies, 1972 (Mémoires de la classe des lettres, 2e série 61-2).

7 L’expansion belge, vol. 3, no. 1, January 1910; Chine et Belgique. Revue économique publiée mensuellement par la Société d’Études Sino-Belges, vol. 1, no. 1, April 1905 – vol. 10, no. 4, July 1914; J-M. Forchisse, La Belgique et la Chine. Relations diplomatiques et économiques (1839-1909), Brussels: l'Édition universelle, 1936 (Bibliothèque de l'École des sciences politiques et sociales de l'université de Louvain).

8 Daniël Verhelst and Nestor Pycke (eds.), C.I.C.M. Missionaries, Past and Present 1862-1987. History of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1995 (Ancorae, 13), p. 25–188 and 256–81; Carine Dujardin, Missionering en moderniteit. De Belgische minderbroeders in China 18721940, Leuven: Universitaire Pers Leuven; Ferdinand Verbieststichting, 1996 (Kadoc-Studies, 19).

9 Renamed “Association pour la Valorisation des Archives d’Entreprises” from 1994: URL: http://www.avae-vvba.be. Accessed 21 August 2014.

10 Bruxelles (Belgium), Archives et Bibliothèques de Belgique, 21 mai 1986.

11 URL: http://arch.arch.be/. Accessed 21 August 2014; URL: http://www.africamuseum.be/museum/collections/archives/index_html. Accessed 21 August 2014.

12 Flanders has structured its archival landscape according to criteria of decentralisation and specialisation. Besides the Flemish association for libraries, archives and documentation (Vlaamse Vereniging voor Bibliotheek, Archief en Documentatie) http://www.vvbad.be/, Accessed 21 August 2014, an interuniversity education program for archivalists exists since 1993. Several platforms help tracing efficiently both public archives (URL: http://www.archiefwijzer.be/. Accessed 21 August 2014) and private archives (URL: http://www.archiefbank.be/. Accessed 21 August 2014).

13 Compagnie Financière Belgo-Chinoise, Société Belge d’Entreprises en Chine, Compagnie de Tramways et d’Éclairage de Tientsin, Compagnie Générale des Chemins de Fer en Chine, Banque d’Outremer.

14 A large part is conserved in Leuven at KADOC, Documentation and Research Centre for Religion, Culture and Society: URL: http://kadoc.kuleuven.be/eng/index.php. Accessed 21 August 2014

15 URL: http://www.china-institute.be/francais.html. Accessed 21 August 2014.

16 Historical notes, 1921–57: AGR, CFEO, 8. See: René Brion and Jean-Louis Moreau, Inventaire des archives du Crédit Foncier d'Extrême-Orient et de sa filiale, la Société Hypothécaire de Tanger, op. cit. (note 2), p. IX–XVI.

17 The French Jesuits and Lazarists (or Vincentians) of Tianjin feared the consequences of the French anticlerical laws of 1901–4 in the French concession. J-M. Forchisse, La Belgique et la Chine, op. cit. (note 7) p. 431–2.

18 Statutes, 1907-58, article 3: AGR, CFEO, 1-2, 4 and 302.

19 Historical notes, 1921-57: AGR, CFEO, 8.

20 Notably: Chris Elder, China’s Treaty Ports: Half Love and Half Hate, an anthology, Hong Kong; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999 (Literary anthologies of Asia).

21 C.F.E.O. was a founding partner of Credit Estates Company Ltd in 1937: A.G.R., C.F.E.O., 463-472.

22 AGR, CFEO, 1210-1325. This company will not be analysed in the present article.

23 AGR, CFEO, 1-93.

24 The archives of C.F.E.O. is conserved in depot A.G.R.2, Joseph Cuvelier, 26-28 rue du Houblon, Brussels, and is only accessible by appointment.

25 René Brion and Jean-Louis Moreau, Inventaire des archives du Crédit Foncier d'Extrême-Orient et de sa filiale, la Société Hypothécaire de Tanger, op. cit. (note 2).

26 Idem, p. XVI.

27 Not mentioned in the inventory of CFEO. I consulted these albums in January 2012 at the central depot of A.G.R. Courtesy Marc Carnier, Caroline Six and Michaël Amara.

28 Léo Mendelssohn (Paris 1894 – Paris 1965), architect DPLG, worked in Tianjin and Shanghai for C.F.E.O. from 1924 to 1931, heard of the architectural office of Tianjin. A.G.R., C.F.E.O., 1094–1096.

29 AGR, CFEO, 223, 282 and 556.

30 Notably offices for the Chinese post at Jinan and Kaifeng.

31 Exceptionally Gabriel Van Wylick was authorised to draw in 1938 the plans of a villa for M. Verlinden, Belgian consul at Manila, to which this service could not be refused. A.G.R., C.F.E.O., 446.

32 In an article Van Wylick suggests that he designed himself the building, while, in all likelihood, he supervised the works and designed details. Gabriel Van Wylick, “L’architecture contemporaine en Chine,” L’Émulation, vol. 47, no. 9, September 1927, p. 103.

33 AGR, CFEO, 445.

34 AGR, CFEO, 1117 (in 1933).

35 AGR, CFEO, 142 (Tianjin), 218, 221–223 (Shanghai), 281–282 (Hankou), 338–342 (Hong Kong), 490 (Jinan) and 555–558 (Singapore).

36 Gabriel Van Wylick, “L’architecture contemporaine en Chine,” op. cit. (note 31), p. 102.

37 The names of Tchan Houa, I.L. Tchang and Y.L. Tien are mentioned on plans for Hoangho Paiho museum in Tianjin, 1914. Rome, Archivium Romanum Societatis Iesu.

38 Rhode-Saint-Genèse, private archives Edouard Van Wylick. With all my gratitude to family Van Wylick.

39 Personal file of Gabriel Van Wylick, Archives of the S.C.A.B. at the Archives and Architecture Library, Université Libre de Bruxelles. Courtesy Irène Lund.

40 Gabriel Van Wylick, “L’architecture contemporaine en Chine,” op. cit. (note 31), p. 99–103.

41 AGR, CFEO, 273–296.

42 Montreux, private archives Jean Volckaert. With all my gratitude to family Volckaert. On Gustave Volckaert (Ghent 1888 – Uccle 1978): Thomas Coomans and Leung-kwok Prudence Lau, “Les tribulations d’un architecte belge en Chine: Gustave Volckaert, au service du Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient, 1914-1954”, op. cit. (note 3), p. 129–53.

43 The Japanese partially invaded the foreign concessions of Tianjin in 1939 and Shanghai in 1941, annexed Hong Kong in 1941 and Singapore in 1942. As long Belgium and France were occupied by Germany, the Japanese considered the citizen of these countries as "allied". However, after the liberation of Belgium and France in September 1944, the Belgians and French expats were interned in camps and all their property seized until the end of the war in Asia in August 1945.

44 The content of these archives remains unknown as long the inventories are not public.

45 Tianjin Municipal Archives, J2-3-1463, J93-1-481, J44-2-206441, J90-1-1334, J25-3-2225-29, J170-1-48, X90-Y-76-12.

46 Licheng Zhou, “Tianjin dang’anguan zujie dang’an gaikuang jigi kaifa liyong” [The general situation and exploitation of the Tianjin Concession Archives in Tianjin Municipal Archives], The 2nd International Conference on Urban Cultural Heritage and Architectural Conservation of Tianjin & Annual Meeting of Tianjin Federation of Social Science Circle, organized by Tianjin University and Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, 16–18 September 2013.

47 Several selective books were published, such as: Tianjin ying zujie gong buju. Shiliao xuanbian [British concession in Tianjin Municipal Council. Selected and compiled historical data, 1927-1941], Tianjin: Tianjin shi dang’anguan bian [Edition of Municipal archives of Tianjin], 2013.

48 Only one real estate complex of CFEO has been studied when it was renovated: Lin Wei, Fuxing yipin cun: Shanghai lishi jiequzhengtixing baohu yanjiu [The renovation of ‘Yipin-village’: research on integrated conservation of a historical street in Shanghai], Nanjing: Southeast University Press, 2008.

49 Hong Kong Public Records Office. Some files, notably HKRS 58-1, HKRS156-1, HKRS113-2-107. Courtesy Leung-kwok Prudence Lau. URL: http://www.grs.gov.hk/ws/english/org_pro.htm. Accessed 21 August 2014.

50 Leung-kwok Prudence Lau, Adaptive Modern and Speculative Urbanism: The Architecture of the Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient (C.F.E.O.) in Hong Kong and China’s Treaty Ports, 1907-1959, op. cit. (note 3), p. 155-218.

51 Hong Kong Museum of History, Resource Centre: URL: http://hk.history.museum/en_US/web/mh/collections/resources/centre.html. Accessed 21 August 2014.

52 Brussels, Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, B 108 VII, map Peking, diverse works.

53 For example: AGR, Compagnie de Tramways et d’Éclairage de Tientsin, 572, 638-639.

54 Present BNP Paribas-Fortis, seat of Brussels. Courtesy Jean-Louis Moreau.

55 See note 16.

56 AGR, CFEO, 445 (for the years 1927-1952).

57 Rome, Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu; Vanves, Archives de la Compagnie de Jésus, Province de Champagne; AGR, CFEO, picture album, constructions 1922; private archives Jean Volckaert. However, most buildings of the Jesuit university of Tianjin were built and designed by the French construction company Brossard-Mopin.

58 Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, Causeway Bay, 1928. See: Bulletin de la Société des Missions Étrangères de Paris, vol. 9, 1930, p. 121.

59 Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China, New York: Norton, 1990, p. 245–540.

60 Thomas Coomans, “A Pragmatic Approach to Church Construction in Northern China at the Time of Christian Inculturation: The Handbook ‘Le missionnaire constructeur’, 1926,” Frontiers of Architectural Research, vol. 3, no. 2, June 2014, p. 89–107.

61 URL: http://docomomo.hk/. Accessed 21 August 2014; and URL http://www.docomomo-china.com/. Accessed 21 August 2014.

62 Such as the research project “De Tientsin à Tianjin (1860-2030): mondialisation et patrimonialisation,” Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and Tianjin University.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Belfran building in Tianjin, China (1927) and apartment building on Prince Edward Road in Kowloon, Hong Kong (1930).
Légende The heritagization of buildings erected by the CFEO in urban contexts that are undergoing dramatic changes has only recently been accepted.
Crédits THOC 2012 and 2013.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/742/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 60k
Titre Figure 2: Letterhead of the CFEO in Shanghai, 1930 and 1919, and share issued in 1946.
Crédits AGR-AE, CFEO, and private collection.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/742/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Titre Figure 3: Personnal files of architects and plans from individual building files.
Légende House at 62 Barker Road on the Peak in Hong Kong, Gustave Volckaert, 1948.
Crédits AGR-AE, CFEO, 438.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/742/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Titre Figure 4: Rue de France in Tianjin, China and Prince Edward Road in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Légende Building files often contain photographs of title deeds, extracts from the land registry and plans of the subdivisions.
Crédits AGR-AE, CFEO, 172 and 394.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/742/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 52k
Titre Figure 5: Taku Road in Tianjin, China (1927), and Boundary Street in Kowloon, Hong Kong (1931).
Légende Examples of annotated photos.
Crédits AGR-AE, CFEO, 177 and 442.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/742/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 56k
Titre Figure 6: Belfran building, Rue de France in Tianjin, China, Léon Mendelssohn (arch.), 1927.
Légende Photographic reproduction of a presentation drawing.
Crédits AGR-AE, CFEO, 172.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/742/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 56k
Titre Figure 7: Cercle Français (1932), and Hôtel Municipal of the French Concession (1931) in Tianjin, China.
Légende Official photos taken by professional photographers.
Crédits AGR-AE, CFEO, Albums.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/742/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k
Titre Figure 8: Model of Yien Yieh Commercial Bank in Hankou, designed by the British architects Hemmings & Berkley and built by the CFEO (1927); draftsmen at work in the Hong Kong office c. 1950.
Crédits L’Émulation, vol. 9, no. 47, September 1927, p. 103; Archives Jean Volckaert.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/742/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Titre Figure 9: Cercle Sino-Français in Beijing, China (1919), and chapel of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Hong Kong (1950), by Gustave Volckaert; sketch by Gabriel Van Wylick, Tianjin, China (c. 1920).
Légende Family albums and architects’ sketchbooks are precious complementary sources.
Crédits Archives Jean Volckaert and Archives Edouard Van Wylick.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/742/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Titre Figure 10: A few buidings bear the CFEO’s brand.
Légende Partially hammered inscription on the Belfran building in Tianjin; Belfran Road in Kowloon; foundation stone of the church of Christ the King in Hong Kong, 1928.
Crédits THOC 2013.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/742/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Titre Figure 11: Church of the Maryknoll Sisters in Kowloon, Hong Kong (1952), and building works in Tianjin, China (1932).
Légende Photos of building sites provide information on construction, the workers and how work was organized.
Crédits AGR-AE, CFEO, 1174-1175 and Album.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/742/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 159k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Thomas Coomans, « China Papers: The architecture archives of the building company Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient (1907-59) », ABE Journal [En ligne], 5 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2014, consulté le 20 octobre 2017. URL : http://abe.revues.org/742 ; DOI : 10.4000/abe.742

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Auteur

Thomas Coomans

Professor, Université catholique de Louvain, Faculté d'architecture, d'ingénierie architecturale, d'urbanisme, Louvain, Belgium and The Chinese University of Hong Kong, School of Architecture, Hong Kong, China

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La revue ABE Journal est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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