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China: OCT Loft Offers Breathing Room for Creative Industries

Shenzhen Mini Guide

A collection of abandoned industrial buildings is saved from the wrecker's ball and given a new lease on life as a centre  for creative industries. Ten years on, the trees have matured and the buildings have gained a certain patina.

Click here for an interactive TripAdvisor guide to Shenzhen

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An exhibition space at OCT Loft Creative Park in Shenzhen, China. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

 

OCT Loft Creative Park is a cluster of former factories and warehouses turned into cultural hub for creative industries.

Hong Kong has long been thought of as a cultural desert.

While that is no longer as true as it once was - there is a nascent performing arts scene and artists colonies have sprung up in some of the city's grittier former industrial districts - the cultural scene is not as vibrant as it should be for a city with more than 7 million people.

A trip north of the border to Shenzhen's Nanshan dirtrict, however, reveals a completely different cultural vibe. Dare I call Shenzhen's OCT Loft Creative Park a cultural oasis?

After Deng Xiao-ping announced economic reforms in late 1978, Shenzhen was the first city to benefit, becoming the first of 5 special economic zones in 1979. By any measure, it is by far the most successful.

At the time, Shenzhen had a population of just 30,000 people Now its population has grown to 15 million, more the double the size of Hong Kong's, which lies to the city's immediate south.

Industrial Chic

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Murals have been painted on the sides of many of the renovated factory buildings. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

 

Many industiral buildings were built in Shenzhen in the early 1980s, and the city became a magnet for fortune seekers from throughout China.

By the late 1990s, most of these buildings had been abandoned as manufacturers started expanding into larger digs on the outskirts of town.

The abandoned factories and warehouses could have been torn down to make room for new development. Instead, OCT Real Estate Ltd - Shenzhen's largest real estate conglomerate - decided to transform them into an artistic and cultural district.

A team was sent to Vancouver, British Columbia, where a similar project had been undertaken to get ideas.

Contemporary Art Terminal

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Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

 

The first tenant to move in was OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, which occupied an old warehouse in 2005.

Artist's ateliers, bars, bookstores, cafes, design firms, fashion houses, and multi-media enterprises moved in one by one, creating a thriving creative ecosystem.

Idutang followed in 2006, offering space for exhibitions, concerts, and movie screenings. Hundreds of cultural events have been staged at the venue over the years.

OCT Loft is divided into 2 zones: north and south. While there is considerable overlap between what goes on in the 2 zones, the northern zone is dominated by art galleries, cafes, exhibition spaces, and shops.

The southern zone - which was developed first - has a preponderance of bars, cafes, coffee houses, and bookstores.

A number of creative industries occupy the upstairs spaces of buildings on both sides. Murals adorn the outer walls of many of the buildings.

A leafy pedestrian mall bisects OCT Loft. A crafts fair is held on weekends and public holidays. Held every October, the 3 week OCT Loft Jazz Festival is one of many festivals held each year.

Food + Beverage

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Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

 

From noodle shops to coffee houses to ice cream parlours to fine dining eateries, you won't go hungry at OCT Loft.

With dozens of eateries of every stripe, OCT Loft is home both chain restaurants and independent eateries.

Many of the restaurants serve regional Chinese cuisine. Others serve food from other countries around the world.

What makes the zone special is the variety of combinations you will find at many of the establishments. Think food with books, coffee with art, and ice cream with flowers.

Accommodation

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Entrance of the OCT Loft YHA Hostel. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

 

The OCT Loft YHA Hostel offers shared dorm rooms, twin rooms, and family rooms. There is a self service kitchen, laundry facilities, Internet access, Wi-Fi, a common room, and a cafe. Cash only.

  • 7 Xiang Shan East Street, Hua Qiao Cheng (Overseas Chinese Town), Nanshan District, Shenzhen, China. Telephone: (86) 755-8609-5773.

City Inn OCT Loft Hotel is full service hotel. It has 87 rooms, a coffee shop, a restaurant, and other facilities.

  • E-2 Building, Shantou Street, Overseas Chinese Town, Nanshan District, Meilin, Shenzhen, China. Telephone: (86) . 

How to Get There

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Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

 

The closest subway station is Qiaocheng Dong, Exit A, on the No. 1 subway line. Upon exiting the station, walk straight down Shennam Boudlevard for about 5 or 10 minutes. You'll see an entrance to OCT Contemporary Art Terminal on your right. Follow the signs and you're there!

Make It Happen!

Shenzhen is a modern city with all manner of accommodation, from luxurious 5 star resorts to modest dormitories to a capsule hotel with capsules renting for just over US$10 a night.

As a city of migrants, Shenzhen has thousands of restaurants, cafes, and food stalls serving regional Chinese dishes from all over the country as well as the national cuisines of countries all over the world.

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Talking Points

Have you ever OCT Creative Park? Would you recommend it to others?

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