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Shanghai Bridge 8 : Bridging creativities

text:Katia Wong

From the outside, Bridge 8 is the new landmark of Shanghai Lu-Wan district; inside, it is a successful conversion of abandoned factories into creative hub, not only for the locals, but also for the global creators and designers.

“Creative industrial park” is a concept that is proliferating in China, especially in Shanghai at the moment. The so-called “park” is different to the general conception of the word. A place for relaxation is not its intention, it is a community for workers in the creative industries. Creative industry firms such as design, advertising, and post-production for animation and film in China are not as mature as in Tokyo or anywhere else in the western world. The number of freelance workers is relatively less, and it was a struggle for creative workers to find a studio or an office for themselves in a saturated city like Shanghai. Following the changing landscape of industry in Shanghai, many factories in the central area such as Chang-Ning, Xu-Hui and Lu-Wan, were left as vacancy. Despite a lot of them were demolished, some are turned into creative spaces, allowing artists and creative workers to seek a workplace for themselves.

“Bridge 8” may not be the origin of this concept, but it is without doubt the most representative among all creative industrial parks in Shanghai at the moment. Bridge 8 has three phases: the first phase located on a street called Jian Guo Zhong road, whereas second and third phases are on Ju Men Road. Architect firms summed up the biggest amount of tenants in Bridge 8, but there are also other creative industries, such as printing company, software and computer, game and animation design company, greenery design company and other design companies. Cafés and restaurants are also included to provide meeting space or for recharging creativity. Nonetheless there are shops that are to be found nowhere else in Shanghai. For example, “Point to Life Bookstore” sells magazines like Wallpaper, PPaper, AAngle and Frame. These tenants share similar aesthetic views because of their resembling target customer group.

The property developer of Bridge 8, Lifestyle Centre Ltd., which also has its office located in the “park” area, has come to realize that most creative industries in China are small or medium sized enterprise, thus they need to gather up in order to attract their target customers. Real estate, locals, lifestyle and art should all assembled, and therefore Lifestyle Centre opts to perform developing, leasing and operating management all at once to its own projects.

However, this concept of “developing, leasing and operating all at once” only came after the first phase of Bridge 8 was built. The founder of Lifestyle Centre, who was involved in the Xintiandi project in 2002, has decided to start a business of his own. He gathered his own team and tried to search for a workplace. Interestingly, he did not move into high-rise building like the others would have at that time, rather, he chose the shabby former car brake factory as their new office. A small bridge that links up the two factory buildings attracted him, and he decided that he is not going to move in to only one of them, but to renovate the whole site that included 7 buildings into a project that can sustain the old buildings, and provide new inspiration to locals. All buildings are linked up by small bridges in the Bridge 8 area. An enormous bridge was built to link up the first and second phase 3 years ago, it has now become the landmark of the Lu-Wan district and attracted a lot of tourists.

Bridge 8 reposited the basic infrastructure of its buildings. Therefore, you can still discover the trace of factories if you looked closely. The first phase contains seven buildings, four small iron bridges were built to link up all of them. The buildings follow a loft style, but Chinese elements are blended to offer uniqueness. For instance, the façade of the buildings are covered by green-gray bricks, which is a traditional southern Jiangsu (south of the Yangtze River) architectural style. Second and third phase, on the other hand, are renovated with an Art Deco style. The most notable landmark for phase three, is the bell chamber building with red façade. You can hear the bell ringing every hour even now. Moreover, Bridge 8 is constructed with the concept of sustainability. A certain degree of electricity and hot water are provided through solar energy, geothermal heat pump is also used for air-conditioning.

It was almost seven years ago when I first come across Bridge 8. The project, and the city itself are altering everyday in a rapid speed. Bridge 8, through its development, has also attracted a lot of other property developers and even tourists. Lifestyle Centre Ltd. has mentioned that, ‘Positive creativity should change the mind and the lifestyle of individuals. China is growing too fast, and all occupations and individuals are only looking for speed nowadays. However, it is more important to provide sustainability and to make business that is people-oriented.’ Bridge 8 resists the high-rise buildings and the rapid changes in the city, instead, it provides a place for people to be inspired and to seek a glimpse of nostalgia. The wooden corridor, and the narrow but cozy backyard café are my favourites at Bridge 8.