The history of modern creative parks in Chengdu can be traced to 2007, when work began on Advertisement Park — also called Hongxing Road 35 — and Eastern Suburb Memory. They became the first and biggest of their type in southwest China.
Some 10 creative parks have now been set up in old factories in the city. These form a new industry trend, both leading and supporting cultural, creative and advertising industries in Sichuan Province.
And growth continues. Advertisement Park is now planning to extend to its third stage on the site.
Meanwhile, Eastern Suburb Memory, which opened in 2010 with a focus on the musical industry, is diversifying to encompass the whole gamut of entertainment and creative industries, including filmmaking.
While the initial creative park concept may have been borrowed from examples in Beijing and Shanghai, Chengdu’s creative factories have gradually formed their own distinctive styles, following experimentation, and adjusting, step-by-step, along the way.
Hongxing Road 35
Address: 89 Zhaozongci Street
Advertisement Park, widely known as “Hongxing Road 35,” in Jingjiang District was the first creative park in Chengdu.
In 2007, work began converting an old print works. Advertisement Park opened in 2009 and by 2010 was home to more than 60 companies.
Now the tally stands at more than 100 creative companies in the 28,000-square-meter complex. Tenants cover the advertising, culture, cartoons, design and service industries.
“We are now extending the creative park to its third stage — another 3,000 square meters — and extending to additional commercial and service industries,” says Liu Zhili, the executive deputy director of the Construction and Promotion Office of Advertisement and Creation Industry Park, the founder and manager of the park.
Confident of future
Liu says Advertisement Park’s success reflects a wider trend in Chengdu.
There were 1,051 advertising and media companies in Jingjiang District by the end of 2012, says Liu.
The park is located in the so-called “media corridor” in downtown, home to numerous publications, advertising agencies and TV and radio stations.
“I am very confident of the future of the creative industries in Chengdu,” says Yu Bing, chairman of Sunfire Creative Industry, a creative company based in Advertisement Park.
“The blossoming of creative industries in creative parks brings advantages to local creative companies, as well as providing opportunities to bring in others from elsewhere,” says Yu.
Yu points to several advantages of locating a business in creative parks such as Advertisement Park.
The name itself can bring credibility and prestige; costs and risk are reduced as the industry chain is mature; and there are opportunities to brainstorm with neighboring businesses, says Yu.
Other Advertisement Park businesses agree.
“We’ve found a ‘sense of safety’ here. Intellectual property is protected to some extent and exchanges with other creative studios help provide us with inspiration,” says Liang Piaoyi, the general manager of Yaodao, a pottery studio and Taoism lifestyle salon.
“The flourishing of creative industries in this city, and even in Sichuan Province, cannot be separated from local government support,” Liu states.
This takes the form of both financial incentives and technology — reducing rents; assisting participation in design competitions; and organizing workshops and industry visits, says Liu.
Eastern Suburb Memory
Address: 4 Jianshezhi Road S., Chenghua District
Eastern Suburb Memory was the second creative park in Chengdu — following on from Advertisement Park — and is the biggest in the city.
The park is now home to the visual arts, filmmaking studios, photography studios, a boutique hotel, bars, cafes and restaurants. And it is the site of art exhibitions and commercial and charity events.
The initial idea to build this creative zone came in 2007, inspired by Beijing 798, one of the most successful and best-known “creative factories” in China. Located in the eastern suburbs of Chengdu, the site was a base for heavy industries in the 1950s and 1960s.
Constructing the old
“With changes in the city and industry, a plan was drawn up to develop the creative industry in Chengdu,” says Yuan Hui, publicity director of Chengdu Media Cultural Industry Center Management Company, and founder and manager of the park.
“This led to creative parks taking inspiration from famous examples such as 798 in Beijing and M50 and Red Town in Shanghai.”
Famous Chinese architect Liu Jiakun designed the whole project with the principle of “constructing the old as the old” — taking advantage of the old factory buildings.
The park targeted the music industry attracting numerous businesses and staging musical events and parties.
However, over time, the park management felt they should diversify.
There are a lot of talents in filmmaking, art and architecture in Chengdu. Focusing narrowly on music limited the development of the creative park.
The park is now also making efforts to combine the history of Chengdu’s heavy industry, often manufacturing for the military, with the modern creative industries.
Distinctive features include a 67-meter chimney from the original Hongguang Electronic Tube Factory and one of the three chimneys retained in downtown Chengdu City.
“Chengdu is very important in its history as a military industry base. So we have built a museum in the park to display this history of the city,” said Yuan.
Yuan says Shanghai and Beijing creative parks provided useful templates. But after, to borrow a Chinese proverb, “crossing the river by touching stones” — testing each step before taking it — Eastern Suburb Memory now has its own style, developing in its own distinctive Chengdu way, says the park’s founder.