Xuhui Runway Park, an innovative urban revitalization project
Xuhui Runway Park is an innovative urban revitalization project that breathes new life into a unique piece of Shanghai’s history. Master planned as a public street and linear park side-by-side, the site is leading the city’s new lifestyle, following its environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable approaches.
Located in the Xuhui Waterfront Area, this 14.63-hectare site was formerly a runway for Longhua Airport, once the largest airport in Eastern Asia. During the regeneration of the former industrial waterfront into a mixed-use district, the park serves as a runway of modern life, offering a space of recreation for nearby office workers, students, and residents, as well as a respite from the high-density redevelopment around.
The park's 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 articulated ascending and descending movement resembles the experience of being on an airplane, connecting visitors to the past while 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, 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. Active lifestyles can be found in multiple forms of runways, such as the bike and pedestrian runways through the park, a runway playground, a runway fountain, and a multipurpose lawn with a capacity for holding 3,500-people events or 5 soccer games in five-a-side size fields. Cultural events and performances can be accommodated at the sunken garden with a maximum of 900 audiences, and restaurants, bookstores, exhibition spaces scattered throughout the park are designed to allow for small social gatherings, serving the developments around. Private conversations and reflection can take place at multiple gardens, riverfront overlooks, and the birdwatching grove, which offers a respite from busy urban life. 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. Preservation and reuse of the runway concrete on site has not only saved construction costs but also reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing of new concrete. 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 rain garden and the 8,107-square-meter 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 underground cistern for park operation and maintenance use when necessary, providing a full water supply for the Runway Fountain in the park.
The park has received much attention from the neighborhood as well as from the city. Following its construction, many major residential, commercial, and office developments were grounded in its adjacent blocks, including the CCTV Yangtze Delta Headquarters, the first 7-star hotel in Shanghai, and the West Bund AI Center, the World Artificial Intelligence Conference site; the property value of the neighborhood increased over 80% from 2015 to 2019.
This site traces the record of urban development in Shanghai. It transcends time and space, bringing a piece of the memorable past to the present and into the modern comfort of urban public spaces. Its strong sustainable initiatives 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.
Linear spaces of diverse scales, materials, typography, and programs compose an interconnected sequence of runways for vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, and water.
In bright fall colors, 4 rows of Sapindus mukorossi and 2 rows of Ginkgo biloba shade the boulevard, creating human-scaled spaces, seasonal effects, and a pleasant driving, riding, and walking experience.
The shaded main path follows the preserved historic runway, framed by Trident Maples, aircraft-wing shaped light poles and site furnishing over the demolished runway pieces.
A boardwalk made of fused bamboo lumber leads people through the rain garden of native wetland species, which detains and treats the street runoff.
Gently sloped pathways introduce ascending and descending movements to the park, mimicking the experience on an airplane, which connects visitors to the past.
Seasonal effects and resting spaces attract people of all ages from surrounding communities. All plants in the park are native to Yangtze River Delta.
Linear play equipment placed on rubber padding with runway demarcations offers a play experience of forwarding, climbing, and sliding over a miniature runway.
The peaceful setting of the park offers rare opportunities for people to enjoy intimate moments in the public realm of a high-density urban district.
The flexible open space offers an opportunity for gatherings, as well as a panoramic view of the canal landscape.
Integrated with LED light fixtures, furniture inspired by the shape of aircraft wings and lit handrails allow for evening use along the canal.
The canal along the runway is fringed with rows of Salix babylonica, linear waterfront platforms, and wetland ledges treating street runoff and offering marine habitats.
As a critical urban public space in the Xuhui Riverfront, the project transcends time and space, bringing a piece of the memorable past to a bright future.
Shanghai Xuhui Waterfront Development Investment Construction Co., Ltd.
Scenic Architecture Office
Mark Dawson, Dou Zhang, Guohao Li, Yu Zhu, Yi-Ting Chou, Tianwen Zhou, Jialing Zhang, Steve Engler, Andrew McClurg, Anthony Fettes, Daniel Pryor, Tera Hatfield, Jeff Sprague, Sam Pease, Wendy Wang, Zhiqing Yu, Shuai Hao
Shanghai Gardening-Landscaping Construction Co. Ltd.
Structural Engineer, Civil Engineer and Electrical Engineer - Shanghai Municipal Engineering Design Institute (Group) Co., Ltd. Lighting Design Consultant - Leni Schwendinger Light Projects Ltd.; Arcplus Group Co. Ltd. Fountain Design Consultant - Fluidity Design
Furniture: Shanghai Dingzhong New Material Co. Ltd. - Precast Concrete Bench Drainage/Erosion: Shanghai Shangfeng Group Co. Ltd. – Drainage Pipes Lumber/Decking/Edging Zhejiang Dasso Industrial Group Co. Ltd. – Boardwalk, Overlook & Bench Parks/Recreation Equipment Kompan Playgrounds (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. Water Management/Amenities Shanghai Xingbo Construction and Installation Engineering Co. Ltd. - Rainwater Harvesting System Hongyi Environmental Technology (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. – Fountain Lighting Zhejiang Goody Lighting Technology Co. Ltd. Doors Shanghai Jindun Fire Fighting Security Equipment Co., Ltd. – Special Fire Door
Insaw Photography, Fan Zhang, Sasaki
Founded by Hideo Sasaki, an influential landscape architect in 20th century, Sasaki has pioneered interdisciplinary design through the integration of architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, planning, urban design, civil engineering, graphic design, place branding, and data science for more than 65 years. We bring together diverse perspectives, open exchange, and deep engagement with the clients and communities we serve. Sasaki’s global experience spans scales, disciplines, geographies, and industries. This breadth of experience enables us to attack problems multi-dimensionally and develop full-spectrum solutions that have a lasting positive impact on humanity. Our work has been recognized with over 800 local, regional, national, and international design awards.
We are currently operating in 2 locations, one in Watertown, Massachusetts, USA, and one in Shanghai, China, with a total of 300 employees.