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Hubs highlight creative industries

IN March this year, Shanghai and Chengdu joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Calling Shanghai the "City of Design," the UNESCO Director-general Irina Bokova said that they appreciated the city's initiative in developing a balanced design landscape on a sociocultural and environmental level.

Not to be confused with cultural industries, creative industries are a loose blend of art, culture, business and technology and use intellectual capital as their primary input. They range from visual and performing arts, music, publications, media, and more service-oriented fields such as architecture and advertising.

As China aims to shift its economic model from "Made in China" to "Created in China," this often overlooked industry should be nurtured. Last month, the Shanghai government said that they intend to increase the industry's contribution to GDP from the current 7 percent to 10 percent this year.

Although creative industries are difficult to quantify in terms of gross economic output, it is acknowledged globally that they are fundamental toward building a "superior" city.

And, if China gets it right, it will be one of the few countries in the world to strike a balance between the "hard" and "soft" economies. Opportunities for these businesses now lie mainly in Beijing and Shanghai.

These artistic enclaves tend to be housed within old historic buildings such as 1933 Old Millfun, which used to be the biggest abattoir in East Asia. Some say that the silent voices and stories hidden within these walls create a conducive environment for designing and creating. Characterized by boutique firms, art galleries, design studios and restaurants and cafes, here are three hubs worth exploring to understand the boom of this "soft" industry.

More than just art at old abattoir

The Art Deco 1933 Old Millfun on Shajing Road used to be a municipal slaughterhouse, at one time the biggest abattoir in East Asia. Now, the stunning heritage structure has become an arts and lifestyle hub in the north Bund area. Four buildings constitute the square factory area, housing design studios, luxury boutiques, restaurants, bars and galleries. It often stages high-profile events and shows. 1933 Creative Bazaar will be held on June 20. More than 80 booths and hundreds of original designers will gather in the hub, showing and selling original handiworks and fashionable items.

Address: 10 Shajing Rd

Cozy neighborhood

Located in southwest Luwan District, Tian Zi Fang comprises alleyways dotted with shikumen houses, lofty warehouses and old factories. This place is not a fiction like other creative parks in the city; you can feel the genuine Shanghai neighborhood with many local residents still living on the upper floors of their dwellings, while shops and restaurants operate on the ground floor. The area's first act of transformation started in 1998 when the late renowned artist Chen Yifei and several other designers and artists set up their studios and galleries in the lofty factories on Lane 210, Taikang Road. The area really started coming into its own in the past few years, attracting design companies, fashion houses, galleries, studios and restaurants, run by people from around the world.

Paint the town a bright red

The dusty, abandoned remains of a former steel factory have been turned into Red Town, one of the trendiest creative districts on Huaihai Road. Creativity of various forms can be found here including the famous Shanghai Sculpture Space, the newly opened Minsheng Art Museum, Hong Kong fashion and lifestyle retailer Joyce Warehouse, and growing numbers of galleries, boutiques and studios. The newest addition, Minsheng Art Museum, is currently exhibiting Chinese contemporary art by displaying works from more than 80 artists. Red Town is an essential destination for architecture, sculpture and contemporary art buffs. Give yourself two or three hours to walk around, appreciate the art and select a cafe to eat and drink.

Address: 570 Huaihai Rd W.


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