Xuhui Runway Park is an innovative urban revitalization project that breathes new life into a unique piece of Shanghai’s history. Located in the Xuhui Riverfront Area, a formal industrial zone of the city, this 14.63-hectare (36.15-acre) site was a runway for Longhua Airport, which operated for over 80 years and was Shanghai’s only civilian airport until 1949. The remaining concrete runway was built in 1948 and used until the airport was closed in 2011.
With the recent redevelopment of the area into a mixed-use district, the historic runway is embracing its new life. Master planned as a public street and park side-by-side, this project serves as a runway of modern life, offering a space of recreation for nearby communities, as well as a respite from the high-density redevelopment around. Following its environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable approaches, the site is leading the city’s new lifestyle.
To reflect the site’s previous history, the design mimics the motion of a runway, creating diverse linear spaces for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians by organizing the park and street into one interconnected sequence at a runway scale. While the spaces are linear in form, diverse spatial experiences are created by applying different materials, scales, topography, and programs. The ascending and descending movement, with overlooks created for pedestrians and cyclists, resembles the experience of being on an airplane, which connects visitors to the past while also providing varied viewpoints of the site.
The layout of Yunjin Road contributes to a compact urban district by limiting the number of vehicular travel lanes and promoting public transportation, as well as designating bike lanes to facilitate the “last one kilometer” commute between transit and individual destinations. Additionally, six rows of deciduous trees are planted along the sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and road median, creating a comfortable microclimate, seasonal effects, and a human-scaled boulevard. A sunken garden is carved between the park’s subway station and neighboring development parcels, improving the walking experience to and from transit while enriching the spatial composition of the park. Additional commercial frontage is placed along the garden perimeters, bringing more revenue to support the park’s operation and maintenance costs.
Diverse programs are planned in various park spaces, open to all ages and groups and free of charge. The entire park is universally accessible, providing equal opportunities to people at a full range of ability levels. It has become a year-round outdoor lifestyle destination for nearby residents, office workers, and school students.
Abundant wildlife habitats in both land and marine typologies are integrated with the landscape programs, with 100% of plant species native to the Yangtze River Delta. A total of 82 plant species, including 2,227 trees, are planted on site, with Trident Maple as the character tree species along the preserved runway concrete to complement its unique history. Over 68% of the hardscape is shaded by deciduous trees, providing outdoor comfort while reducing the heat island effect at this post-industrial site.
The design integrates portions of the original runway concrete where feasible to prolong the site’s memory, including the reuse of concrete pieces from the demolished runway at resting areas. Concrete was also selected as a primary material for the project. The profiles of site furniture and light poles are designed to recall the elements of an aircraft, while in-ground lights outlining the former runway concrete panels serve as a visual connection to the park’s aviation history. All site lighting is LED sourced, reducing annual electricity use by 167,000 kilowatts compared with metal-halide lighting. Most construction materials were sourced locally and are environmentally friendly to reduce emission during transportation, protect rainforests, and support the local economy.
The stormwater from the park and Yunjin Road is managed along the street through the 5,760-square-meter (1.42-acre) rain garden and the 8,107-square-meter (2-acre) constructed wetland. The roadside rain garden system is the first of its kind built in Shanghai. The treated stormwater meets the quality requirements in China for recreational water. A portion of the treated runoff is collected at a 39.4-cubic-meter (10,408-gallon) underground cistern for park operation and maintenance use when necessary, providing a full water supply for the Runway Fountain in the park.
Following the construction of the project, many major residential, commercial, and office developments were grounded in its adjacent blocks; the property value of the neighborhood increased over 80% from 2015 to 2019.
The strong sustainable initiatives of the project have earned it the first SITES Gold certification in Mainland China and the SITE 2019 Green Building Market Leader Award by USGBC’s Massachusetts Chapter.
Name of the project: Xuhui Runway Park
Project category (Public Project, Infrastructure, Residential housing park, Private garden, Hospitality) Public Project
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architect
Other designers involved in the design of landscape (if any):
Lighting Design Consultant: Leni Schwendinger Light Projects Ltd.; Arcplus Group Co. Ltd.
Fountain Design Consultant: Fluidity Design
Structural Engineer, Civil Engineer and Electrical Engineer: Shanghai Municipal Engineering Design Institute (Group) Co., Ltd.
Project location (For publicly accessible projects please include exact address. For Private gardens place write Country or State): Yunjin Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai
Design year: 2012-2015
Year Built: 2019