Former Shanghai airport transforms into park

24 Jan 2021 by Hannah Brandler
Runway of Modern Life

Shanghai’s former Longhua Airport has been transformed into a sustainable riverfront park, with design that pays homage to its aviation past.

Located in the Xuhui Riverfront Area, Longhua Airport was once Shanghai’s only civilian airport and operated from 1948 until its closure in 2011. Global design firm Sasaki has converted the original runway of the former airport into a 1,830-metre-long linear park, divided into a series of smaller gardens and planted areas connected via concrete pathways.

The Xuhui Runway Park, or “runway of modern life”, was completed in April 2020. Sasaki aimed to “reflect the site’s previous history” through design which “mimics the motion of a runway by organising the park and street into one interconnected sequence at a runway scale”, with multi-use lanes for vehicles, bikes and pedestrians.

The ascending and descending layout of the park intends to replicate the experience of being in an airplane, with overlook areas for pedestrians and cyclists. The aviation theme continues throughout the park, with fountains named after the original site – the Runway Fountain and Silver Wings Fountain – while portions of the original runway concrete have been integrated into the design of the park.

According to the global firm, this helped to both save on construction costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing process. The design team, for instance, used a row of 3.6-meter-wide structurally-sound runway panels to serve as the main pedestrian path of the park, with the original direction markings still in place. 

The birdwatching grove near the north end of the park also features portions of the runway concrete, which have been used to create “intricate resting spaces”. Elsewhere, demolished sections of concrete have been repurposed and form a paving pattern next to the main pedestrian path. Light poles, too, “recall the form of airplane wings”, while in-ground lights “serve as a visual connection to the park’s aviation history”.

Additional features include a sunken garden, where events can be held for up to 900 people, and various recreation facilities, including a runway playground and a lawn with capacity for 3,500 guests.

The park prides itself on sustainability, with all of the plantings native to the Yangtze River Delta; a total of 82 plant species including 2,227 trees were planted on site. Most construction materials were also sourced locally to reduce emission during transport and support the local economy. All lighting on site is LED while fused bamboo lumber was used for benches, boardwalks and riverfront overlooks due to its “fast-growing nature, comparable strength, and longevity in outdoors environments”.

While the park opened in April 2020, it has received a lot of interest recently around the world due to the expected recovery of international travel following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Sasaki has also achieved various accolades from design and sustainability bodies for the project, and states that “many major residential, commercial, and office developments were grounded in its adjacent blocks” following its construction.

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