L. E. Hudec (1893-1958)

He was born in 1893, in Besztercebánya ( today Banska Bystrica, Slovakia). His father was György Hugyecz, a wealthy master builder from Besztercebánya, his mother was Paula Skutéty, whose ancestors were Lutheran Ministers, one of them the famous 16th century preacher and disputant, Severin Scultéty.

László Hugyecz spent his summers on construction sites from the age of nine, he got his first assignment to sign a contract from his father when he was thirteen years old. György Hugyecz, the master builder had a prosperous building company in Besztercebánya, together with Lajos Rosenauer. Mostly they were implementing the designs of Gyula Sándy, Ervin Ybl and Gyula Walder.

From 1905 the family Hugyecz lived in a villa in the centre of Besztercebánya (Banska Bystrica) designed by the father. The six children grew up in a loving atmosphere in the roomy house. The family members kept correspondence in Hungarian, but they also used Slovakian and German frequently. They had no problem with their national identity – at least not until 1920.

Before László Hugyecz registered at the Királyi Magyar József Technical University in Budapest, he took the mason, stone-cutting and carpenter technical exams.
From 1910 to 1914 he studied at the Technical University in Budapest, where he graduated as an architect. In this time he took several study-tours in Europe with his father and his fellow students. After his graduation, he got a job in Ervin Ybl’s office immediately, but the military draft intervened.

1st September 1914
he started his military training. He stayed at the 1st artillery regiment as a volunteer. He had infantry, artillery and cavalry training.

7th June 1916 he was captured by the Russians

In 1918 he escaped from the captivity, and ended up in Shanghai, using multiple names, nationalities and languages, and his wide knowledge of his profession.

In November 1918 he arrived in Shanghai, and in the same month he already got a job as a draftsman in the office of R. A. Curry. He started to use the name L. E. Hudec in official writings.

Around 1919-1920
he wanted to buy land around Micsinye, and move back home.  He never got any reflections to his works from his beloved father  because there were serious problems at home. His father died in 1920, the family moved to Budapest and lost all of their houses and most of their assets.

In 1921
he travelled home, visited his family and his former professors, Jenő Lechner and Virgil Nagy, and took a round-trip in Europe. He took the role of the caretaker from his father, and moved back to Shanghai, to be able to give more support to his loved ones who stayed at home. He regularly sent money to all of his siblings, other relatives and friends.

He got married in the summer of 1922. His wife, Giselle Meyer was born in Shanghai; her father was a descendant of a Lutheran trading family from Bremen, and her mother of the English noble family Tisdall. The family had excellent relations. Later on they had two sons and a daughter.

László Hugyecz subscribed to the Hungarian periodicals Építőművészet-Építőipar (Architecture and Construction), Iparművészet (Arts and Crafts) and Művészet (Art). His familiarity with classical styles, the practical experience he had from working with his father, and from the war assured him a fast promotion, he soon became head of the office.

In January 1925 he opened his own architecture office. He didn’t only get orders from the international expatriate colonies (for example the Country Hospital), but also from the new Chinese administration and bourgeoisie. His first important project for Chinese clients, the Joint Savings Society was followed by many others:  universities, industrial buildings, embassys and churches.

In 1927, 1928, 1931, 1935, 1939 he was in Europe, Hungary, too. Longer study-tours in Germany and in the USA.

In 1928 he applied for naturalization but the Czechs did not let him put down the Czech citizenship because his father’s legacy proceedings weren’t closed yet (it was concerning several million Czech korunas).

In the beginning of 1930 he encouraged his brother, Géza to travel to the USA for a study trip. From the States Géza arrived in Shanghai and joined the office (he died in 1933). There were 30 employees in the office, and 15 of them were Chinese.

In 1934 he designed his most famous building, the Park Hotel; up to the 1980’s it was the tallest building in Shanghai. László Hugyecz’s most fruitful period lasted until 1937.This was the time he built his art deco and modern-style public and private buildings eg.: Grand Theatre, House of Dr. Woo, Hubertus Court. He didn’t only design but also built own executions, he invested a part of his money in real estate. In his autobiography he wrote about hundreds of buildings, obviously including terraced houses. Countless publications of his designs were issued in professional periodicals; the Royal Institute of British Architects asked for the pictures and plans of the Grand Theatre for their archives.

January 1941
he recieved the long-awaited Hungarian citizenship and passport back. After the war, he wanted to retire, live for archaeological and historical research, and stay lengthy in Rome. He applied for the title of “Vitéz” (an order originally for military distinction in WWI).  He was the president of the Hungarian Association in Shanghai.

From 1942
Hudec is the Honorary Consule of Hungary

In 1943 he opened the Hungarian Consulate in Shanghai.

In October 1944 the Arrow Cross Party gained power in Hungary, and they closed the Consulate, but he managed the affairs of the Hungarian community over there as the president of the Hungarian Association. He highly disapproved of the persecuting of Jews (approximately half of the Hungarian community there was of Jewish origins) and of the cruelties of the Japanese. He saved Hungarian citizens who were Jewish from the ghettos. Thank-you-letters and testimonials from the survivors: Lipót Kardos, Salamon Graf, Paul V. Schiller, Mrs. Dávid, Dr. Imre Kocsárd.

In 1947 he was planning on moving to Switzerland, engaging himself in archaeology, and have the family from Hungary visit them annually. The St. Peter’s Basilica and the exploration of the history of the necropolis were his long-time passion, and he got the chance to visit the excavations when he was in Rome in 1947.

In 1948 the Hugyecz family settled down in Berkeley, California. They were there when the armies of Chiang Kai-shek fell apart, so they couldn’t return to China. He sent colourful and descriptive portrayals of the American way of life to family at home, and he wasn’t planning on opening a new company. In 1949 he was invited to give a lecture about the Vatican excavations, especially about St. Peter’s grave at the University of San Fransisco, the Jesuit university. He published his article in the Journal of Bible and Religion in 1952.

He died in 1958 from a heart-attack, in Berkeley.