An Italian Space in a Chinese Industrial Legacy: Designing the Italian Cultural Box within the Pearl River Piano Cultural Park

Giorgia Cestaro | Michele Bonino

As the final article in the micro-series of articles on the industrial legacy in China, curated by China Room, Politecnico di Torino’s research group, (Industrial Legacy and the Future of Chinese Cities, Industrial Clusterization Strategies in the Pearl River Delta Area: Reorganizing the Production of the PRP in Zengcheng NTDZ), the essay will introduce the results of planning an Italian Space within the Pearl River Piano Cultural Park (see also Design Opportunities and Cultural Intermediation) as a model to transform former industrial spaces into flexible programs with the potential to enhance creative industry and new economies.

The growing interest of the Chinese government in promoting the regeneration of the country’s industrial legacy as a way to encourage economic and social development offers an interesting perspective and a reference framework to describe and interpret the initiative of the “Italian Cultural Box” within the development of the Pearl River Piano Cultural Park. The creative industry model has been strongly supported in recent times by Chinese institutions that have promulgated some important legal tools working at the national level (Liu; Zhu 2015). The most recent one is represented by the Interim Measures for the Administration of National Industrial Heritage, formulated by the Ministry of Education as a consequence of the Guiding Opinions on Promoting the Development of Industrial Culture, jointly issued in 2016 by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (Huo 2016, 499-503). Among all the points of the document, it is important to mention here the need to foster a rational use of the national industrial heritage. The Interim Measures proposes supporting the use of the national industrial legacy and related resources by opening museums in former industrial areas, developing industrial tourism and creating cultural parks in order to accelerate an innovative and entrepreneurial activity centered on the industrial heritage. Chinese institutions encourage a rational use of the industrial heritage as an important measure to promote the transformation of industrial buildings and to accelerate the transformation of the old plant energy into a new business model, in order to promote economic and social development with the aim of protecting the national industrial heritage (Edwards 2012, 440-442).

Within this context, the Italian Cultural Box arises as a model for the transformation of former industrial spaces into flexible programs able to enhance creative industry and new economies. It is a space dedicated to Italian artistic, gastronomic and manufacturing culture that reflects the peculiarities of the city of Torino, hometown of the majority of the stakeholders involved in the project, such as the Politecnico di Torino, the Municipality of Torino and the most important companies of the city (Chung 2013, 2459–2462). The idea of an Italian cultural hub in the very center of the Greater Bay Area, together with the objective of creating a reciprocal cooperation between Italian and Chinese organizations, can be read as a pioneering venture to strengthen the protection of Chinese industrial heritage, to improve its rational use and to empower synergy, joining forces among local institutions and international actors in keeping with the new Interim Measures (Zielke, Waibel 2016, 95-102). In November 2019, a visit from the Pearl River Piano Cultural Park’s chairman to the mayor of the city of Torino and to the dean of the Politecnico di Torino, offered the chance to gather all the different representatives of this dialogical venture and to explore design proposals for the “Italian Cultural Box” to be presented on that occasion.

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China Room, FULL - Future Urban Legacy Lab, Politecnico di Torino (Italy)

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