From Tai Kang Lu to M50 and beyond, Shanghai is abuzz with creative parks and hubs. One of the most recent to spring up, 800SHOW, is a one-time steel factory spanning 20,000 sqm in the heart of Jing’an District. This week, we caught up with logon, the architectural firm behind the renovations, to get the inside scoop on 800SHOW and understand this interesting side of Shanghai’s never-ending urban development.
800SHOW, conveniently located on 800 Changde Lu, is made up of fifteen buildings built over a 50-year period, including the principal 120 metre-long factory hall, colonial-style villas from the 1920s-30s and office buildings from the 1960s-70s. Over two years, all were renovated with their historical standing intact and aim to be ‘a place with face’, providing office space for creative companies as well as events and leisure spaces to shake up the densely commercial area of Jing’an. In October, the space also held the Shanghai International Creative Industries Week, supported by the municipal government.
Behind 800SHOW is the German-based international design office, logon, a melting pot of urban planning, landscape design and architecture. It takes an intercultural approach to its work by developing within and adapting to the Chinese market, rather than implementing European models. It blends its Chinese context with a German approach of architecture needing to serve a purpose, and places users at the top of their priority list.
For Pascal Hartmann, a German sociologist who has been working at logon in Shanghai since early 2007, successful creative parks are based primarily on clear and well-managed business models. This means making sure spaces are functional for users above all.
In constructing 800SHOW, Hartmann told us, “The first priority was to ask how can we use the space and develop the area in relation to its context, rather than just developing a design concept. Plus, we wanted to design it with respect to the original architecture. The area is interesting and unique, we wanted to embrace the architectural heritage and memory of the city; this is important in the development and sustainability of these creative parks.”
800SHOW was opened with the exhibition, Rebirth. “It was a celebration of the site with something special and unique in the opening of creative parks in Shanghai,” Hartmann said. “We invited a curator from Berlin who came up with rebirth concept to celebrate the re-utilisation of the buildings and organise an art exhibition in newly refurbished areas. It was possible to get some of the most famous Chinese contemporary artists involved and at the time, 800SHOW was not totally finished, construction was still going on.”
With the new artwork alongside the ongoing construction, logon felt the exhibition was a fitting symbol of the transition from old to new. “Rebirth reflects an ideal of how urban development should go. Very often there’s no time to hold on and reflect, so it was interesting to take the moment of transition with 800SHOW, put in the art and let it help to bring some thought and meaning.”
The emergence of creative hubs and parks in Shanghai has brought the city into a new phase of its rapid urban development. The areas of Tai Kang Lu, Tai Ze Fang and Moganshan Lu’s M50 are all incredibly popular amongst Shanghainese and expats alike, and The Economist also reported last week that China is now the world’s third biggest art market.
But how sustainable is all this activity? Unlike the West, China’s urban development is taking place at light speed (just look at Shenzhen), and, in Hartmann’s view ecological factors are becoming more focused upon: “the government realises the problems of pollution and the impact the modernisation process has on China’s economy,” he told me. “Young architects are also becoming more aware of nature and a sustainable lifestyle. Things are happening in this direction but still a long road ahead both for China and the rest of world.”
What role does Shanghai have to play in all of this? “It’s the poster boy city, it needs to be ahead of development,” Hartmann said. “There is a huge responsibility of Shanghai and Beijing in leading the urbanisation of country, improving transportation, building insulation, and so on. If they do that, other cities will follow.”
In the meantime, logon is continuing to work on challenging projects in and outside of Shanghai. In addition to 800SHOW, they designed the IIInshanghai Creative Park on Dingxi Road, home to their stylish offices. They are also currently working on four other renovation projects around the city.
With spaces such as these, we can hope the only way is up for Shanghai’s creative vibes.