At 985 feet long, an abandoned Panasonic television factory in Beijing, China offered tantalizing potential as a cultural space—and huge challenges.
Set at the northern edge of Factory 798, the buzzing arts district that has developed in a cluster of mostly defunct industrial facilities during the past 20 years, the building was a logical site for China Minsheng Bank to create a museum to anchor its expanding presence in the contemporary art world. (The bank already had a museum in Shanghai, founded in 2008.)
But converting the derelict leviathan in China’s capital, with its vast acreage of generic space, into a humanely scaled place for art would not be easy.
Built right after Deng Xiaoping began opening the Chinese economy to the rest of the world, the Panasonic factory was the first international joint venture with a non-Communist country.
Now Pei Zhu, a Beijing-based architect, hopes the building can once again point China in a new direction as it looks beyond its industrial past and recycles its building stock, instead of always tearing down and starting over.