Walking along South Shaanxi Road to the sidewalk near Middle Yan’an Road, you will soon encounter a rare scene – part of a colorful wall. It features brick-red square mosaics, with yellow-blue-red patches decorating every several meters, and a row of Chinese-style greenish glaze tiles on its top. Colors on the wall are as bright and vibrant as those in a crayon painting. Going past the wall and entering through the gate, you will find a real majestic mini palace hidden in the green trees. Seeing this, you thought you might be in H.C. Andersen’s fairy world. This would be fitting, since this villa does belong to a dream, a dream of a child with the surname – Moller.
The story sounds like a bedtime fairy tale too: A little girl one day told her father, a captain, that she dreamed of a beautiful castle. And she drew that castle according to her memory. Seeing the picture, the father was so delighted that he regarded his daughter’s scribble as a practical blueprint for a building, and entrusted the then renowned Allied Architects with the design and construction. In 1936, the building was established. The captain was Moller Eric, a wealthy British businessman, and the mini palace is Moller Villa at No. 30, South Shaanxi Road, Shanghai. The captain also erected a bronze statue of a horse at the entrance of the garden to show his gratitude to a racing horse, which again and again helped him earn a great fortune in the bets before he set up his business.
Though usually introduced as a North-European style architecture, Moller Villa is hard to be recognized as any style when you stand in front of the Paifang (a typical Chinese-style memorial archway). Take the gate as an example: it looks like two fancy pillars randomly piercing a Chinese Paifang. The two quadrel pillars have colorful brick outer layers, yet are topped with a green ball each, complementing the green glaze tiles. Under the glaze tiles is the China-red Dougong (a unique structural element of interlocking wooden brackets, and one of the most important elements in traditional Chinese architecture).
On your right, there is a top with extremely complicated enchasing. The pinnacle above it is painted in the most shining golden color and the projecting windows have small sharp pointed roofs. It is said that this steep roof is of North-European style, built to protect the building against the strong wind and lessen the area of the snow accumulated on the roofs. There is one such roof on the northeast and southwest corners each. Two levels of windows are projecting on the biggest roof top in the middle.
Two stone lions are stationed on each side of the small exquisite arc staircase, while the small projecting eave on top of the door presents color and form of Southeast Asian taste and the projecting part in the middle of the wall shows the English Victorian half-timber style. Items displayed as decorations inside gather the essence of Chinese and Western cultures, ranging from blue and white porcelains, ancient coins, to Roman columns and shrines, etc.
The most remarkable part of the villa is Moller’s lingering memories of his seafaring days, which are shown everywhere. As in ship cabins, there are doors and winding stairs everywhere. Two wings of stairs lead to the fore rooms and rear rooms respectively, making newcomers lost in intricate stairways without knowing which floor they are on. The higher it gets, the narrower the stairs are. Wainscotings are paneled on walls of passages and corridors with woodcarvings affixed, which all present shipboard scenes, such as steer, anchor, seaweeds, waves, sunrise over the sea, beacons and work on board, etc. Even on the parquet are patterns of seaweeds and kelps, with the thinnest part only several centimetes wide. The delicate and exquisite parquet is, so to speak, a handicraft. Furniture such as the dresser is mounted on the wall, a real and vivid reflection of the life in the cabin.
Waling along the creek into the backyard garden, you will see stone drums and stone lanterns decorating the garden. The stone lantern is of typical Japanese style.
The hotel is really an interesting mixture of totally different things, kneaded together into a whole, to fulfill a child’s imagination. Maybe, this is the way that true art comes into being. Today Moller Villa has been transformed into China’s only hotel situated in a first-class preserved modern building and is Shanghai’s first Quality Hotel. There are altogether 106 rooms of different sizes in the villa. Colorful glass fixed in the domes of the rooms appears in different tones under the sunshine. It provides butler service, creating an atmosphere of home.