From Airport To Public Park – Transforming Shanghai’s Longhua Airport

A disused airport in Shanghai has been transformed into a 36-acre urban park for residents of the city. With its runway now converted into walking and cycling paths, Xuhui Runway Park also boasts canals, a rain garden, play areas and outdoor gyms amongst its many features.

From Airport To Public Park – Transforming Shanghai’s Longhua Airport
Shanghai Longhua Airport was once an important civil airport in the heart of Shanghai. Photo: Fayhoo via Wikimedia Commons

Xuhui Runway Park started in 2015

Starting off as an airfield in the 1920s, Shanghai Longhua Airport became Shanghai’s first civilian airport and remained in operation in 2011, albeit in a reduced capacity in its later days. With its prime location in a regenerated Xuhui Riverfront District, Longhua Airport became a focal point for developers looking to transform the area.

From Airport To Public Park – Transforming Shanghai’s Longhua Airport
The park offers a scenic escape in Xuhui District, a high-density area undergoing major transformations. Photo: Sasaki

Work on the park began in 2015 and was completed by April 2020. With much of the airport infrastructure still intact when development began, the park masterfully incorporates the existing runway as multi-use lanes for pedestrians, cyclists and cars. According to Sasaki, the global design firm behind the project,

“… the design mimics the motion of a runway 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.”

In keeping with an ethos of sustainability, original materials from the airport were re-used. This includes concrete from the runway repurposed into paving stones and resting places. China has a long heritage of transforming public spaces, with many of its historical landmarks such as the Beijing Summer Palace now public parks.

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Birdwatching, secluded gardens, restaurants and a multi-purpose lawn

Xuhui Runway Park was designed to be a lot more than just a city park. The space is home to everything from birdwatching groves to an interconnected canal and rain garden system that cleans and recycles stormwater. This system is an innovative answer to a problem many of China’s ‘sponge cities’ face each year – how to manage and harness the power of heavy rainfall.

From Airport To Public Park – Transforming Shanghai’s Longhua Airport
The park was designed with sustainability in mind. Photo: Sasaki

The park’s large lawn can hold up to 3500 people, while its sunken garden has a capacity for up to 900 people. Both spaces are ideal for private and cultural events such as weddings, festivals and concerts. Other features of the park include bamboo boardwalks, a butterfly garden, outdoor exercise equipment and even its very-own subway station.

Other aviation-themed projects around the world

The concept of converting derelict airports, airplanes or anything aviation-related into new attractions isn’t unique to Shanghai. Various interesting projects around the world demonstrate how much potential there is in aviation-themed projects. The Dubai Miracle Garden is one of the best-known examples, with its life-size Airbus A380 jet made entirely out of flowers.

Emirates, Airbus A380, Flower Sculpture
The A380 in Dubai Miracle Garden is made from half a million flowers. Photo: Getty Images

In New Zealand, developers are looking to transform an old Air New Zealand 747 (painted in a unique Lord of the Rings livery) into a boutique hotel on the grounds of a small regional airport. Other fascinating uses of old aircraft include Nanjing’s A320 restaurant and the 727 hotel in the middle of a Costa Rican jungle.

Would you like to see more regeneration projects like Xuhui Runway Park around the world?