In America, the transformation of abandoned industrial buildings into creative workspaces and galleries is most closely associated with SoHo in the 1970s, Berlin in the mid-aughts or, possibly, Bushwick three to four years ago. But one of the largest current projects to repurpose industrial space, with its big open floors and big windows, is happening near the Chinese city of Shenzhen, where a 20-acre factory complex, abandoned for 10 years, is slowly being reclaimed.
The 20-year project to revitalize the old factory grounds into the iD TOWN International Arts District is still in its infancy, but it already is home to art studios and projects. Design Boom (which also has some great pictures and drawings) explains how "the windows of the factory have been removed to create a free flow of circulation and open the internal structures to courtyards on the exterior which will accommodate a wide range of events and larger audiences."
Repurposing industrial buildings can also be good for the environment—a plus in China. On this side of the Pacific, the EPA has helped fund the cleanup of brownfield sites, including the 27-acre Civil-War era textile mill in Lewiston, Maine, and an abandoned and polluted warehouse in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which were cleaned up and turned into housing, office space and artists' lofts.