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Sci-tech Innovation
Good Things Can Not Be Created without Careful Nu...
By Meng Qunshu

Sturdy trunks extend to the ground along mottled wall. The entire crown grows high above the wall. Green leaves grow on the trunks and form sharp contrast with old bricks. Clear spring murmurs beneath the tree. Several red goldfish is swimming leisurely in the pool, full of vigor of life.

This corner is hidden in the old factory area of Yangpu Hobnail Factory on Kunming Road, Yangpu District.

Now this corner has become a part of Original Design Studio of Tongji Architectural Design (Group) Co., Ltd.

The old factory buildings of Yangpu Hobnail Factory have been left unused for over ten years. This area is waiting for dismantling and relocation to other places. Garbage used to pile up for half meter’s high. In 2012, when Wang Liming, who is from Caibo Culture Communication Co., visited here for the first time, he was attracted by these old factory buildings on the first sight. “This area reminds me of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Plants and old architecture mixed so well with each other. You can not see a miracle like this in new buildings,” said Wang.

History is the most valuable part of old buildings. Wang speaks on the history of the old factory buildings with great familiarity: The first factory building was built in 1937. Later, the factory built more buildings in the 1970s. The last two buildings were completed in early 1980s. The entire hobnail factory is a miniature of old buildings in several different eras. “Now few people know about the hobnail factory. These buildings have become a part of the city. Each building has its own stories. If we dismantle these buildings, we would wipe out a part of history in this area,” said Wang. To protect these buildings, in 2012, Wang signed a long-term rental agreement with the property owner. He also invited designers from France, Italy and other countries to submit a tender, and determined a final modification scheme for Yading Creative Workshop.

Challenges came one after another when the project entered the stage of investment attraction. Original Design Studio looked favorably on D building, which was completed in 1937, and the landscape outside the building. However, an overseas investor was also in favor of this building. He offered a higher price, hoping to lease this building and renovate it into a restaurant.

Among the game between short-term interests and long-term interests, D building was finally handed over to Original Design Studio. Zhang Zi and Zhang Ming, two designers from Tongji University, made a series of renovations on this old factory building. Collapsed rooftop became sunny courtyard. Desolate factory buildings became open office spaces. Designers also added green plants and water landscape into their design programs to make the space more vivid and flexible. “In creative industries, creative ideas often came from momentary relax. Old factory buildings exactly provided us with moment of relax that we could feel at any time,” said Zhang Ming.

In addition, the modification project of D building won a silver award for Architectural Creation, Protection and Reuse by Architectural Society of China. Many customers visited here for seeking partnership. The studio also added renovation and design for old factory buildings into its business scope.

Later, building A, a factory building with the largest area in the factory, was rented by Lear Corporation (China), one of the Top 500 enterprises in U.S, as the company’s technology center. The first floor of B building was rented by two photography companies, and the second floor was rented by a design company and a German construction company. C building was mainly rented by enterprises from the movie and culture sector. A part of spaces in the building were left as spaces for “micro cultural and creative industry”. On May 23 this year, Yading Cultural & Creative Space was founded in C building. It will become a platform of exhibition for enterprises in the park. Exhibitions on artworks by college students and artists will also be held here. Currently, diversified events would curtain up here every week.

New business patterns emerged in old factory buildings, and numerous creative ideas were born here. In the past, many old factory buildings in Shanghai were renovated into creative industrial parks, but their pattern for profitability was single and the supporting facilities surrounding these old buildings were poor. Some developers cared about short-term profit only and ignored quality during the process of renovation. Some developers even modified old factory buildings into white collar apartments or markets. These renovation projects failed to achieve expected results, and some of them even got worse results. “Good things can not be created without careful nurturing. We could achieve satisfactory results only when we have given full play to the stories of old factory buildings, and then, enhance the degree of comfort of these buildings to the maximum and endow unique features to them,” said Wang Liming.

Reporter’s Notes

Endow Old Architecture with New Life

Cities are developing in history. Old architecture is the miniature of a city’s history. Thoroughly dismantling of old buildings and construction for new buildings is not the best approach for urban development, but giving new life to old buildings is a feasible way.

It is by no means a novel thing to renovate old factory buildings into creative industrial parks. Now we can see creative industrial parks everywhere in Shanghai. As time goes by, more and more people have realized that the quality of an industrial park is determined by the results of game between short-term interests and long-term interests. An industrial park tends to go astray if it has no broad vision and long-term pursuits, but only focuses on short-term material returns. It will not only have backward business patterns and low economic contributions, but will also bring several new problems.

Shanghai, as the place of origin of China’s domestic industry, is the home to a large amount of historical factory buildings. We should reach a consensus on the following issues: Nurture new business patterns in historical factory buildings through high-quality development, and create new atmosphere for innovation and entrepreneurship in these buildings.

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