Xuhui Runway Park: Former airport runway transformed into sustainable urban park in Shanghai

A disused runway, which was once part of Shanghai’s only civilian aiport, has been transformed into a linear park which is now home to an array of flora and fauna native to the Yangtze River Delta.

Xuhui Runway Park, which is almost two kilometes-long, features pedestrian walkways, designated bike lanes and six rows of deciduous trees.

Located in the Xuhui Riverfront Area of Shanghai, architecture studio Sasaki designed the park to mimic the motion of a runway, creating diverse linear spaces for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians by organising the park and street into one interconnected sequence at a runway scale, while the ascending and descending movement, with overlooks created for pedestrians and cyclists, resembles the experience of being on an airplane.

The park, which is divided into a series of smaller gardens and planted areas, is home to both land and marine life. The birdwatching grove, butterfly garden, fragrance garden, and various garden types define the land, while the wetland edge, bioengineered riparian edge, and floating wetland module make up the marine forms.

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 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.

Sasaki also recycled the runway concrete, large portions of which were integrated into the birdwatching grove to form intricate resting spaces, and in areas where the existing concrete was damaged beyond repair, new concrete pavement panels were formed to serve the park’s uses today. Demolished concrete pieces were reused in a randomised paving pattern next to the main pedestrian path for people to rest on and seek shelter from the sun.

According to the architecture studio, preservation and reuse of the runway concrete not only saved construction costs but also reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing of new concrete. 

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. 

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