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China's first SITES Gold project converts a former airport runway into a model for the sustainable urban park by preserving pieces of the site's past

Xuhui Runway Park

Shanghai Xuhui Waterfront Development Investment Construction Co.,Ltd.
Shanghai, China
8.24 hectares
Landscape Architecture
In progress
Green Building Showcase 2019, Market Leader Award Series, Site Category

Xuhui Runway Park is an innovative urban revitalization project that breathes life into a unique piece of Shanghai’s history. Located in the Xuhui District, this 8.24-hectare site was formerly a runway for Longhua Airport, which had operated for over 80 years and was Shanghai’s only civilian airport until 1949. To reflect the site’s previous life, the park’s design scheme mimics the motion of a runway, creating diverse linear spaces for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians by organizing the park and the street into one integrated runway system. While all the spaces are linear in shape, diverse spatial experiences are created by applying different materials, scales, topography, and programs. In this way, the park serves as a runway of modern life, providing a space for recreation and respite from the surrounding city.

The design also preserves portions of the runway’s original concrete where feasible, including the reuse of broken concrete pieces to build paths, plazas, and resting areas. By creating ascending and descending movement, along with the overlooks for pedestrians and cyclists, many of the park’s spaces resemble the experience of being on an airplane, which connect visitors to the past while also providing varied viewpoints of the site.

The street layout creates a compact urban district by limiting the width of vehicular travel lanes and promoting public transit over the use of passenger cars. Additionally, six rows of deciduous streets trees are planted along sidewalk, bicycle lanes and vehicular median, creating a comfortable microclimate, seasonal effect and human-scaled boulevard. Sunken gardens are sited between the park’s subway station and neighboring development parcels, improving the walking experience to and from the subway while enriching the spatial composition of the park.

Diverse wildlife habitats are integrated with various landscape programs, with 100% plant species native to the Yangtze River Delta. These habitats include both land and marine typologies. A bird watching garden, fruit tree groves, and various garden types define the land. A wetland edge, bioengineered riparian edge, and a floating wetland module make up the marine forms.

The historic aerodynamic and industrial sensibility of the site is referenced through the use of lighting poles that recall the transmission of communication and airfield illumination of the airport. In-ground lines and dots of light outline the former runway and will serve as a signature visual element for the park. Lit handrails, benches, shade structures, and elevated pathways will, along with the environmental graphics package, provide a visual boundary for the current planned usage. All lighting is refrained from the habitat area and nocturnal life.

The stormwater from the park and Yunjin Road, which are parallel to each other, is managed through the 5,760-square-meter rain garden and 8,107-square-meter constructed wetland along the road. The roadside rain garden system will be the first of its kind to be built in the city of Shanghai. While runoff from the northern half of the site passes through the integrated rain gardens before discharging into the drainage canal, the southern half of the site will drain through a series of filtering wetland edges. The combination of open forebay channels to slow velocities and planted wetland ledges help reduce suspended sediments and pollutants from the street runoff. All site runoff eventually reaches the Jichang Canal—draining to the Huangpu River.

For more information contact Mark Dawson.

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