Monday, January 29, 2007

Art zones create high rent not talent, says designer

Art zones create high rent not talent, says designer
By Yan Zhen 2007-1-25 Shanghai Daily

ASPIRING artists have been squeezed out of the city's newly created art
spaces because of soaring rents, a top designer has warned.

In an interview with Shanghai Daily on Tuesday, Wu Zhiqiang, chief
designer of the Shanghai Creative Industry Center and the 2010 World
Expo, took aim at the old factories and warehouses converted into
upscale art studios, saying Shanghai "misinterpreted" their

"Many of the so-called creative zones have turned out to be
over-luxurious," said Wu, who is also dean of Tongji University's
school of architecture and urban planning. "It seems we have focused
too much on imitating other's form, but we didn't really get the

Transforming deserted factory buildings and warehouses into modern art
workshops and creative industry buildings proved a popular way to
preserve old architecture in the West during the 20th century.

"Spacious sites with low rent and low labor costs make it possible for
unknowns to produce great innovative ideas. But the model was
misinterpreted in Shanghai," Wu said.

Since 2005, the city has developed 75 creative zones in disused
buildings, including Bridge 8 on Jianguo Road M. and M50 on Moganshan
Road along Suzhou Creek.

Rents in the zones have soared in recent years.

In 2000, daily rent in M50 was only 0.4 yuan (five US cents) to 0.5
yuan a square meter on average. It now stands at about four yuan.

Rents in some of the more well-known zones have even reached eight
yuan to 16 yuan per square meter, on a par with some downtown central
business district office buildings.

"The rent is unbelievably high. Almost no single young artist can
afford it," said Sun Xiaojian, who gave up his studio in a converted
factory to move to an office building in Pudong New Area.

Jochen Schuster, a visiting architecture professor at Dusseldorf
University of Applied Sciences, said it was good for the city to find
connections between old buildings and modern art, but zones should be
made more suitable for young designers, rather than already successful

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