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Nine Creative Hubs So Much Cooler Than Your Office Building

Where to find your next office. With prices!
2020-08-17 10:00:00
Photos: Angela Leung

Upgrade your workspace. You spend most waking hours at the office, why not have it be cool, artsy and inspiring? Or at least windowshop these nine creative hubs.

In Shanghai, some old industrial buildings and former factories have been renovated and earmarked for creative industry workspace, and designated as wenchuang yuan (文创园): creative hubs. Marked by plaques out front, the government specifically leases out these areas to promote the creative industries. Prices aren't necessarily cheaper than other non-creative office spaces, according to property managers, but the community and potential collaboration with neighbors is the major benefit.

Fitting out the space will be on your own dime, as opposed to a co-working space. But the common areas and exteriors are designed to be a cut above a boring corporate office.

Note: Prices below strictly refer to average rent and come from the property managers. They do not include additional fees, such as management or utilities.


Rent: 8.5-12rmb per sqm per day on the upper floors

This modern building may look old but it's completely new, completed this spring. The exposed brick ceilings, decorative beams, white and concrete color palette and Guggenheim-esque curved edges may seem unfinished but that's the intended look. A hotel formerly occupied the site on Yanping Lu in the heart of Expat HQ before being torn down, making way for the five-story, 8,000 sqm artsy building designed by the management company PB Culture's in-house designer Nicole Li.

Intended renters are a young and cool crowd. The building is already home to Danish brewery Mikkeller. The space was used back in March for Spring Fashion Week showrooms by company Not Showroom and for a Herman Miller furniture pop-up store. Planned retail tenants include a high-end nail shop, clothing boutique, and a camping brand.

Shan Kang Courtyard

Rent: 8-9rmb per sqm per day for office space and 14-16rmb for commercial space

The new home of Riink, Azul, and branches of Alimentari and Homeslice. This former construction materials market aims to be a new Xintiandi. The look is restored old Shanghai buildings, according to the managing agency, but not quite shikumen. Japanese architect Xiao Ye (小野) is responsible for the design.

There are 12 buildings at the location with 12,000 square meters of office space. Pudao Wine and a magazine are among the creative residents. The space leans western food-heavy, fitting for the Jing'an expat heavy neighborhood which includes mega sports bar Cages and UP club down the road.

Bridge 8

Rent: 6.5-7rmb per sqm per day

You may have noticed the color block arch driving on Jianguo Lu which gives Bridge 8 its name. The industrial lot next to Ruijin Hospital once made car brakes. After being renovated into a creative hub in 2003, the old factory buildings now house established foreign and domestic creative brands like publishing companies InStyle magazine and Modern Media, which produces Bloomberg Businessweek China.

The renovation was designed by Japanese architect Kenji Mantani (万谷) and maintains the large truck openings as thoroughfares. This was the first of four commercial spaces by Bridge 8, with two more currently under construction. The facility's 21,000 sqm space is 75 percent occupied with a 60 domestic/ 40 foreign company ratio. The communal open spaces are filled with art installations and an exhibit by Modern Media.

Creative Pioneer

Rent: Face-to-face

Surround yourself with those you want to become. At Creative Pioneer, a 30,000sqm fortress facing Mengzi Lu, tenants include Caribbean restaurant Area 501, European sportswear brand On and a plastic surgery hospital.

The property management is extremely hard to get hold of on the phone for more than a minute — everyone is busy busy busy. Best to visit the management offices at Creative Pioneer during work hours for information on vacancy and price.

Red Town 166

Rent: 5rmb per sqm per day

The second incarnation of Red Town is out near Hongqiao Airport. The creative space opened on Huaihai Xi Lu in 2005 and has since expanded to other Chinese cities. They moved to the current location in 2018 as Red Town 166.

The campus, a meter and gauge factory in a past life, is on the small side at 5,000 square meters of rental space with sculptures placed throughout. Occupancy is currently at 90 percent. Of that, about one in five companies here are foreign. Current occupants include architects and a specialty material rucksack maker i'mblu.

Creater Space

Rent: 6-8rmb per sqm per day

Creater is a repurposed old rubber factory next to Tianshan Park. The red brick buildings have been used as a creative space for about 15 years. Occupancy in the 4,450sqm complex is almost full, with all domestic companies.

The management requires that tenants need to be in the creative industry like the current art school or the comedy theater. The company has 30 other office buildings around town.

E Warehouse Creative Center

Rent: 5rmb per sqm per day

Sitting along Suzhou Creek, E Warehouse, which opened in 2007, is best described as a creative jungle gym. Renovations to the old warehouse site added a maze of elevated walkways and staircases connecting the old brick buildings.

Tenants aren't exclusively artsy; there is a film company and a visual arts company but also a biomedical technology company and a cloud strategy company.


Rent: 8-12rmb per sqm per day for traditional office spaces

Near the Nanjing Dong Lu Pedestrian Street, DoBe's 10,000-plus-square-meter building was the former Shanghai Chinese Merchants Stock Exchange dating back to 1933. In the modern day, the renovated building has an open-air atrium and houses a furniture design company, yoga studio and beauty product brand.

On the third floor they operate coworking offices currently called DoBe Space. Occupancy is currently at 90 percent. This is just one of DoBe's few dozen office buildings in Shanghai.


Rent: 9rmb per sqm per day for office space and 25rmb for retail

Ducal is a slanted roof, five-story building under the Nanpu Bridge — a Stuart Little house dwarfed by its surroundings. This 5,500sqm space, opened in 2014 is the first creative office run by the managing company Ducal and it's an impressive start.

Ducal boasts tenants such as Aloooooha Vintage selling Chanel and Birkin bags, Bike Soul bicycle shop, a coffee shop, furniture shop, jeweler, architects and a fashion and Hegel art management company that hosted a Parson's alumni party. Tenants are half-half foreign and domestic with a 70 percent occupancy rate.

Looking for other office options in Shanghai? Click here to see all of the options on SmartShanghai's property section.