Shenzhen named centre of world’s culture construction market

Shenzhen has the world’s most vibrant cultural construction market, according to the latest annual report into the sector from AEA Consulting.

It tracks culture projects with a value higher than $10m, and found that China doubled the number of planned schemes from 12 in 2019 to 24 in 2020, and outspent the US in the sector by $1.7bn.

Shenzhen, which neighbours Hong Kong in southeast China, accounted for 30% of the value of announced projects last year, and seven of the top 13 by budget.

The city plans to build 10 major cultural infrastructure projects and 10 cultural districts by 2023, the report said. Among the schemes announced are ones designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, SANAA of Japan and China’s MAD.

It adds that the spending is aimed at transforming the city itself into a "cultural district", largely based on spending on museums. And although traditional heritage is "reclaiming a central role in urban planning", Shenzhen has become "a key site of urban experimentation in China".

Shenzhen’s 10 new projects are all located outside the city centre, and are being used as anchors for new districts.

The surge in spending is also intended to remedy the relative lack of cultural attractions in the city: although Shenzhen has a population of 20 million, it has about 50 major venues, which is fewer than the number available to nearby Guangzhou’s 15 million people.

Overall, construction was down 30% in the cultural sector compared with the 2019 report, although there was an increase in the number of announced projects, to 130, and project values rose to $8.2bn for the first time since the index began in 2016.

Demand in North America and Europe seems to have been more affected by the pandemic than other continents. The number of projects fell by half in America spending fell to $1.5bn from a peak of about $3.8bn in 2019. The number of projects in Europe fell 40%.

Image: Beijing-based MAD Architects’ design for a Shenzhen culture park (MAD)

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