Manufactured Appeal

Old industrial landmarks in Shanghai are magnets for international visitors and a unique driving force for the city’s tourism.


Over 700 industrial sites in Shanghai are open to visitors to highlight their production methods and house industry museums, among other things.


“The landmarks recount how our society has changed over time,” says Cao Yongkang, director of the International Research Center for Architectural Heritage Conservation at Shanghai Jiaotong University.


“Their structures also possess great architectural, historical, social and scientific value. They’re worthy of special preservation and adaptive reuse to optimize what tangible heritage that remains,” says Cao.


Take the city’s 80,000-ton silo as an example. The structure, with 30 48-meter-high granaries inside, was built near Minsheng Wharf along the Huangpu River 22 years ago. It was once the city’s major venue for grain and sugar storage and the largest silo in Asia.


Now, it is a 13,000-square-meter exhibition area. The ground and top floors are open to the public for free. And it served thousands of artists and tourists during the 2017 Shanghai Urban Space Art Season.


No change has been made to the facade except for the newly installed escalators outside the building. And its surrounding wharf area is a commercial and cultural zone filled with metal sculptures and wooden art.


Another example is the space with 400 vacant buildings on the Baowu Steel site in the northern suburbs, which will become the Shanghai International Art City by 2035.


The site, which housed machinery and industrial operations, will become a business, culture and art district, according to the buildings’ owner, Baosteel Stainless Co.


Industrial-themed tours related to aerospace, automobiles and shipbuilding have also been designed by the local government to facilitate tourism.


According to a report by the Shanghai Industrial Tourism Promotion Center in May, industrial tourism in Shanghai racked up 19.85 million visits in 2015, up from 6.15 million in 2006, with an average year-on-year growth of 22 percent.


“More people now come to appreciate the values and stories of the city’s industrial past,” says Liu Qing, director of the center.


The output value of industrial enterprises or sites in Shanghai rose by 7 billion yuan ($1.02 billion) in 2015 due to industrial tourism, compared with 5.7 billion yuan in 2008.


The achievement is obviously backed up by the fact that Shanghai – known as the birthplace of contemporary industry and a modern industrial hub in China – is where numerous industrial sites were built and supported national development.


As one of the first five open ports in China, Shanghai opened to international trade in 1843 and has since evolved into a large-scale industrial base in the country and the biggest financial center in the Far East.


For decades, the city was known for its achievements in light industry, especially textiles and food; and also heavy industry, including metallurgy, chemicals and machinery.


For instance, most Chinese bought items like watches, bicycles, sewing machines and radios made in Shanghai in the 1960s, says Ma Shanglong, a former librarian with the Shanghai Writers’ Association, who researches the city’s culture.


With the adoption of the reform and opening-up in China, Shanghai’s industrial structure has changed since the 1980s. Many labor-intensive industries were relocated to the suburbs or inland cities. Also, tertiary industries, and hightech and deep-processing units started in Shanghai as deindustrialization and urbanization happened in the heart of the city.


In the 1990s, the reuse of old industrial areas saw the city enter a new stage of strategic growth, according to a book by Zheng Chongxuan, a Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences researcher.


Now, following the national development specifications and standards on industrial tourism released by the China National Tourism Administration, Shanghai has announced its first batch of 18 municipal-level cultural-industry parks in 2005. The number has hit 128 this year.


As the market expands, the administration has announced a three-year plan to have 100 national industrial-tourism-demonstration sites and industrial-heritage-tourism offerings by 2020. It aims to attract 240 million visitors and generate 30 billion yuan in revenue annually.


Shanghai’s government has released its strategy to become an industrial-tourism base, while developing four areas: services, manufacturing, shopping and culture.


He Jianmin, director of the tourism-management school at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, says: “Efforts should be made to raise public awareness of protection while finding diverse and adaptive ways to reuse industrial heritage and to preserve historical authenticity while meeting the needs of modern tourism.”


Source: China Daily