Tag Archives: spatial restructuring

Restructuring inner city brownfields into creative spaces : new modes of local urban governance

Philipp Zielke, Michael Waibel (2014), Comparative urban governance of developing creative spaces in China, Habitat International 41 (2014) 99-107. 

Converting old industrial districts into new creative spaces is becoming a new challenge for chinese post-industrial cities as it implies “material” and “symbolic” benefits for urban stakeholders. As a consequence, new modes of urban governance are emerging consolidating  the powerful role plays by the local government as a key decision maker  in the promotion of creativity within the city. From “creative spaces” to “spaces of controlled creativity”?

The objective of this paper is to analyze and compare the governance of emerging creative spaces in China over time. The development of the most prominent creative spaces in Beijing and Shanghai will thereby be compared to the development of creative spaces in the Pearl River Delta, the latter being globally known as “factory of the world,” representing the archetypal economic model of China’s First Transition.


This paper argues that the governance of creative spaces can be described as a path from informal experiments at the local micro-level to the development of a comprehensive toolset of mainstream policies at the municipal level. This happened in face of the shifting acknowledgment of creative industries from the national level. Consequently, Beijing and Shanghai became spearheads regarding the legalization of creative spaces. This paper further shows that within the institutional milieu of creative spaces, the local state acts as a very pragmatic key decision maker. In conclusion, the local state plays several decisive roles in the course of the development of creative spaces: a transformer of land use rights, a regulator in developing a legislative framework, a mediator between former operator and real estate developer, an investor and distributor of public funds, a supervisor and manager of the local economic development and last but not least a supervisor of creative spaces.


AsKeane (2011: 2) has argued, culture, innovation and creativity are often inter-linked and co-dependent. This is especially true for China, after the country had joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 (Keane, 2005: 270). Many politicians around the globe regard creativity as the “magic bullet”  (Hall, 2000: 640) for economic development, providing new jobs, all with little or no investments from municipal budgets. Further, creativity is utilized as a tool of “urban place-making and marketing” ” (Daniels, Ho, & Hutton, 2012: 5; Kearns & Philo 1993), to build an image of a modern and attractive city in the post-Fordist age. These attempts must be seen in the context of increased global competition among cities to attract investors and the highly educated creative class (see Bassett 1993: 1779; Bianchini, 1993: 1). The value of creative spaces lies not only in economic possibilities, but in their intrinsic value (Sauter, 2012) as vehicles for the preservation  of cultural heritage and promotion of the arts.

Full article available on Elsevier.com

Oriane Pillet

Intern at the CNRS, UrbaChina project. M.A. in urban local development (IEDES, Paris); M.A. in international development studies (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris - Utrecht University); B.A. in geography and law (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris).

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