Old iron and steel forges new art zone

Updated: 2012-10-25 10:43

By Zhang Yue (China Daily)

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One area of Shougang Corp's abandoned factory has reopened as an art zone, welcoming the first visitors to the former steel-manufacturing base - an initial step in its transition into a cultural and creative industries zone.

Two horizontally running steel pipes brought from the main production base and placed atop the gate of the art zone are the only things that have been moved from their original places in the art zone, which is a 10-minute drive from Shougang's main facility.

"We keep every building and all machinery in their original locations and states," says Liu Luguang, who worked with the factory's reconstruction starting from 2011.

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The original Beijing Second Metal Forming Machinery Factory, which served Shougang's machinery supplier, has been renamed as The Iron and Steel Innovation Park of Shougang.

The 200,000-square-meter park is a pilot area for renovation prior to the overall transformation of the Shougang Corp's abandoned site.

The decor and signage resemble that of Beijing's globally famous 798 art district, which was also created from an abandoned industrial zone. But Shougang's art zone is far less crowded than 798's - at least for now.

The workshops are generally as they were when production stopped.

A torpedo car parked on the site is now a place for people to sit and children to climb. A locomotive previously used to transport iron and steel has become an adornment for one building's gate.

Liu says it took workers more than 40 days to clear away the trash and weeds.

Although there are few visitors, every corner has a security guard, who salutes every passing car.

The art zone hosted a cartoon festival in September 2011.

It has also hosted several art exhibitions, including an ongoing show displaying about 20 of Zhao Chengmin's steel engravings.

Animation fan Chen Jiakun learned about the new art zone from the Internet, when devising plans to open his new animation workshop.

"There's no particular place for animation fans to gather in Beijing," he says.

"I want to open my workshop in an area surrounded by cartoons. This should be that place, but it seems few people know about this art zone.

"I love it here. Most of the steel-production facilities here are the same. Those of us born in the 1970s love the old factories' aesthetics. It would be really cool to do cosplay in an iron and steel factory."

Four small plants near the gate have been rented as art galleries and photo studios. But most plants are still available for rent largely because they're too big and, consequently, too expensive.

Liu says things might pick up if the zone subdivides the plants so that every factory can accommodate several workshops.


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