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Transforming Industrial Heritage Sites in Major Chinese Cities: Reintegrating Minsheng Wharf into the Life of the City

By Yifei Lu


Thesis Advisors:

Dennis Frenchman, Leventhal Professor, Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Andrea Chegut, Research Scientist, MIT Center for Real Estate


China is a nation evolving through post-industrialization towards a cultural and innovation based society. In turn, its urban form is grappling with a number of preserved industrial heritage sites in major urban centers such as Beijing and Shanghai. The People’s Republic of China has implemented policy through a culture-led approach in preservation and reuse, resulting in artist communities, museums, and creative offices. However, these sites have either become artifacts frozen in time or heavily commercialized tourist attractions that threaten to displace the creativity within.

This thesis investigates alternative approaches to preservation and reuse of these sites, especially how to integrate 21st century productive uses as a means of urban regeneration. The spirit of industriousness can be preserved within these sites by allowing new productive activities to occur. There is potential to bring high-tech industries into these sites which can benefit from the existing creative environment while increasing long-term economic viability and promote innovation. Collaboration is needed between the government and private developers to control the development direction of the site while allowing flexibility for innovative solutions. Opportunities exist in industrial heritage sites in major Chinese cities today that can bring them back into the life of the city.