Mapping Macao’s Cultural and Creative Zones

08 2016 | Issue 16
Text/Yuki Ieong, Jason Leong and Lei Ka Io

There is a beginning for every industry. Cultural and creative industries are not exception. A creative enterprise may grow from a small-scale home office business, and then merging with other similar operations to form a “cultural and creative zone”. The most ideal situation that comes out of such a zone, of course, is that the enterprises can share some resources while retaining their own characteristics, while the cultural zone itself can develop into a tourist hub, bringing more economic opportunities into the region.


In recent years, Macao has seen the development of a number of such “cultural and creative zones”, developed either with government funding or run privately. In this issue, we have visited several of these places, and interviewed both the owners as well as the operators, so as to introduce to our readers and prospective users the characteristics of these zones as well as analyse their pros and cons.

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Macao Design Centre: Clear Positioning to Facilitate Entrepreneurs


Set up for five years, Craxh Multimedia Production moved in to Macao Design Centre in late 2014. Its creative and managing director, Wallace Chan, said that in the beginning they began as a ground floor operation, and had moved several times due to issues with high rentals and noise disturbance at the working environment, eventually settling in at the Design Centre. Chan said, “Our main concern is naturally the rental level. What brings us here is that the Design Centre is an ideal place to get to know other industry partners and to identify collaboration opportunities.”


Chan finds the rental at the Design Centre within their budget, which is set for a marginal increase annually within the three-year rental period. The office space of a multimedia company is mainly used for opening up a comfortably and open-plan computing space for its staff, as well as to store the film shooting equipment. Unlike other companies, conference facilities or exhibition showroom space are not needed.


“The most attractive service here is the free wifi service. As we have to upload a considerable quantity of movie clips database and manage websites, internet speed becomes very important. Moreover, the round-the-clock building management at the Design Centre offers added convenience for its production crew, who work at irregular hours.”


Convergences and Exchanges


The tricky thing about operating at the Design Centre is that it is not a familiar name for most people, and that designers often have to give detailed instructions for their clients in order to help them find the place. Chan is, however, sympathetic to the situation. “As the Centre is founded quite recently, it is natural that many people are not familiar with the venue. We don’t mind it as much, especially since we do not really have many external visitors.”


Hugo Chang, Chan’s business partner and design director, said that he has become connected with many other business tenants at the Centre, and is impressed by the fact that not only do the tenants come from a variety of industries, they also produce goods and services of quality. The managing organisation of the Centre has also engaged with the tenants to collaborate. Chan said that they have also collaborated with some tenants on specific projects: “If we are not a tenant at the Design Centre, and suppose we do not go often to trade activities, it will be less easy to get connected with other industry partners. That’s a clear advantage of assuming presence in a cultural hub.”


Rental is Only One of Many Criteria


Despite the fact that more than half of the existing tenants are experienced designers, Chan argued that it does not mean startups are not suited to the venue.


“Of course, a low rental is always desirable. However, whether a business thrives or not does not always depend on the size of the cultural space. If a designer lacks an intrinsic appeal, he will not have a thriving business even if he does not pay any rental.”


Chan first started looking for an office space two years ago. At that time, they came across several suitable cultural hubs, including 678 Cultural Creative Park and the Design Centre, both of which they were keen on. He then compared the popularity and market positioning of both venues and came to a conclusion that the Design Centre has a more appealing market positioning and style. Moreover, there are not as many cultural businesses at the other venue, making 678 more oriented towards property business, so in the end they decided to move in to the Design Centre.


“Although the rental period offered at 678 is longer, I feel that the Design Centre offers more in terms of converging the design sector, and promotes a creative atmosphere, so that each tenant can enjoy its own space.”


The Merit of a Sector-relevant Building Manager


Currently, local cultural and creative zones have their own modes of management but, as Chan pointed out, a sector-relevant building management can be more sensitive to an operator’s needed. If the hub is run by an outsider, the project becomes nothing but a property project.


“Some office studios are equipped with call waiting and secretarial services etc., which are services that only more commercial companies would need. It seems that the building manager must be an outsider who knows very little what a cultural venture would need.” Recently, there are also some cultural hubs that have introduced a new way of operation, in which the tenants can offer service or expertise in lieu of rental payment. Chan, however, finds it confusing: “As design products are not easily quantifiable, it is not easy to translate the objective value of these outputs.”


Chan said that, even before the launch of the Cultural Industries Fund, there have been a number of business ventures setting up cultural hubs even though they are outsiders to the sector. He felt that these tend to be mere profit-making ventures in the name of promoting cultural and creative industries. It was until the Cultural Industries Fund was launched that there are people who are passionate to create cultural hubs started to emerge. However, some of them know very little the requirements of managing such hubs and the output is far from satisfactory. Also, facilities in those hubs do not really fit the needs of the users.Chan believed that the relevant governmental department and representatives from the industries need to get more experience to assess the potential of these applications, in order to channel the funds to support the capable operators.