The Chinese capital has been reinvented more times than most world cities, maintaining its position as the home of dynasties and power for more than 2,000 years. Its current rate of growth, however, is extraordinary even by its own standards: Beijing now covers one-and-a-half times more space than in the 1980s, and the pace of real estate development—particularly in the luxury residential sector—continues to rise as both domestic wealth and overseas interest swells.

The metropolis is – according to real estate agents Knight Frank and Douglas Elliman – poised to become the world’s sixth most important city for the international high net worth community by 2024, leapfrogging Dubai, Geneva, and Miami.

It’s inevitable that, with such growth, the historic center of wealth and power—around Wangfujing, the Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square—is being joined by new and gentrified enclaves. Perhaps the most dramatic, the 798 Art Zone in Dashanzi, shares traits with transformation seen in New York’s Lower Manhattan.

Originally built on farmland as a factory by an East German and Chinese syndicate in the 1950s, the 640,000 square meters of massive Bauhaus-style structures fell out of use in the 1980s and 1990s, just as China’s contemporary art scene began to flourish. In 1995, the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts took advantage of the cheap—and enormous—space to set up a temporary home, which became permanent in 2000. A steady influx of artists and gifted minds, including international names such as Ai WeiWei, brought the area to the forefront of China’s creative economy, forming a hub for the ‘BoBo’ (Bourgeouis-Bohemian) scene. The enclave soon became established as the center of Beijing’s fashion world as well, with 751 D-Park hosting China Fashion Week in 2007–8.

The artistic movement was followed by wealth; 798’s high-end boutiques, cafés and restaurants now vie with studios and galleries for the attentions (and wallets) of cosmopolitan visitors and residents.

Lord of Salt
A Sichuan eaterie run by a poet.
Vincent’s Café
A family-run French crêperie popular with artists and visitors alike.
DARA Life Lounge
A reservation-only restaurant that provides a welcome break from the tourists.
Conrad Beijing offers globally inspired iconic architecture and contemporary and spacious design set only a stone’s throw from its Chaoyang neighbor.

Dashanzi Art Zone.


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