On a parallel time track to the "Ten Great Buildings", and equally "inspired" by Soviet urban planners, a number of heavy-industry facilities sprung up all over China in the late 1950s and early 1960s. While many factories and production sites were in fact located in the urban cores (it would take decades to extract them again from their former, central locations and move them to the outskirts into properly zoned industrial areas), this particular factory complex on the outskirts of Beijing was designed by architects from Eastern Germany, in a faux-Bauhaus type style. Nowadays usually referred to as Factory 798, but in fact combining factories 718, 706, 707, 797, 798 and 751, production (tanks & other military weaponry) has either stopped or is in the process of being migrated elsewhere.
When the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts in 1995 searched for a temporary location to teach sculpture and other courses while building a new campus in the city, it rented space from decommissioned factories 798 and 718. The term was up after five years, but some artists stayed on, and, in 2002, the first public exhibition was held here. Since then, hundreds of galleries, cafes, restaurants, studios, advertisement agencies and publishers have settled into what has evolved into China's premier international art scene.
What was designed by East German architects in the late 1950s is now considered a cultural (specifically: industrial) heritage site. There are very few such sites in China, and 798 is a prime example of the successful conversion and modernization of defunct industrial spaces, through individual effort mostly, but still tightly controlled by the authorities.
I have visited 798 since 2003 or 2004. Most images here are of more recent dates. Cameras used: Nikon, Olympus and Leica. Processed in Adobe Lightroom 2.1
Thomas H. Hahn
© Thomas H. Hahn Docu-Images