Shanghai Daily news
A lifestyle redevelopment of an industrial site, converting it into a complex
housing professionals working in various creative fields, shows the way Shanghai
can preserve its past instead of demolishing it, writes Zhao
Passers-by on Jianguo Road M., near the elevated highway, have been
startled to see the transformation of several rows of abandoned automobile
repair shops into a sleek and sophisticated building complex, although the
massive brick walls, pipes and stained floors of the original workshops still
remind people of the site's industrial past. A sculpture, ``Green Door,''
created by the renowned French artist Fabrice Hybert, stands tall at the
entrance emblazoned with a sign reading, ``Bridge 8.''
redevelopment boom over the past two decades has seen glass-and-steel
skyscrapers sprouting up everywhere. However, with fears that the city's
identity is being erased, architects are now seeking to preserve and restore old
buildings rather than demolish them. And they're picking up on trends that have
taken hold in London, New York and other cities around the world where old
buildings are being converted into fashionable loft-style apartments or
Bridge 8 is intended to be a new landmark and a center of creative
style for Shanghai -- a 7,000-square-meter site comprising seven buildings. It
is a lifestyle development that integrates offices, showrooms, shops, eateries
and a leisure area. It also promises to be an invigorating venue for all kinds
of exhibitions and events.
Near Xintiandi and Taikang Road, Bridge 8 has
attracted many professionals working in design, architecture, advertising and
image consulting. More than 10 well-known international companies, including
S.O.M. -- the designers of the Jin Mao Tower -- and veteran Hong Kong movie
director Ng See-Yuen's film studio plus Emotion French, have opened offices
However, unlike Taikang Road, an art street, or the art galleries in
converted Suzhou Creek warehouses, Bridge 8 aims at attracting high-end,
Tony H.W. Wong, a former general manager of
Xintiandi and president of Lifestyle Consulting (Shanghai) Ltd, which initiated
the Bridge 8 project last April, says his company has rejected companies whose
work is not related to design or art when selecting tenants.
charges hold some advantage against other first-rate office buildings in the
downtown area. Wong says the rents are nearly 40 percent below those in Plaza 66
on Nanjing Road W. (which are about US$1 per day per square meter) while
offering services that are worth far more than what is being paid. ``
air-conditioning can be different from room to room so that tenants can adjust
the temperature to suit their own comfort,'' Wong says. ``Unlike most office
buildings, we provide air-con 24 hours a day and people can have access to their
offices at any time in case a designer or architect needs to work overnight. You
know, for these people, inspiration can come at any time. As well, we have a
cafe, a French restaurant, Japanese food and even a foot massage parlor
downstairs where people can hang out and relax.''
Tenants in Bridge 8 fall
into five categories: architecture consultancies, public relations and
advertising, graphic and product design, film studios and shops.
believes that the cluster of different types of artists will spark more
creativity. ``They may get to know each other through a chat over a cup of
coffee downstairs. Or designers can interact and brainstorm ideas with one
another,'' he says.
Japanese company HMA Architects & Designers carried
out the main design work for Bridge 8.
Kenji Mantani, design director of
HMA, says the vision was to set up a model example of how to convert old
factories into productive commercial facilities.
``There are two kinds of
old buildings in Shanghai in need of renovation,'' Mantani says. ``One involves
old residential houses and Xintiandi has done a good job in this. The other
involves deserted factories, so Bridge 8 has the potential to become a creative
``There are many brand-new buildings out there in the city and
they're well-equipped. But that's not what many overseas designers are looking
for when they come here to develop a business. They'd like to see something
that's especially local, even though it's old and not well-appointed.''
Willie Chan has opened POP Shanghai in Bridge 8, a shop that celebrates
original designs in homeware. Many of the products come from famous overseas
designers such as Eero Aarnio, Yoshitomo Nara and Michael Young.
He says the
location of the shop may not have the convenient traffic of Nanjing Road or
Huaihai Road, but customers who come to buy are quite selective -- they're not
average look-and-see people and they appreciate original designs.
believes the creative environment at Bridge 8 will stimulate his business
because many designers and others working in the advertising and architecture
fields are interested in his shop's products.
Alan Sze, owner of the chic
home furnishings shop, LifeZtore, agrees. ``I've already opened a large shop in
Xintiandi. This one in Bridge 8 will be small and cozy but the products are
well-selected,'' he says.
Director Ng has set up a post-production film
studio in the complex. He also owns the state-of-the-art UME International
Cineplex in Xintiandi. The new studio covers up to 400 square meters for a
minimum investment of HK$7 million (US$897,700).
``Bridge 8 has a strategic
location. It's in the bustling downtown area and it provides spacious working
space for artists,'' says Ng.
Bridge 8 is just a beginning in the exploration
and development of buildings with artistic value in Luwan District, according to
Zhang Zaiyang, the district governor.
Now that the concept has been
well-accepted, Wong is starting on the second phase of the project. He has
bought a dilapidated factory opposite Bridge 8 and intends to turn it into
another design center. It covers 6,000 square meters and will be completed by
the end of the year.
``China is now regarded as the world's factory. It's
seen as a country with a stunning manufacturing capability but with not enough
creativity,'' says Wong. ``Today, it is becoming urgent for the country to have
more designing talents to reverse this perception. And these people need an
encouraging and nourishing working environment and that's what we are
endeavoring to accomplish.''