On the banks of Shanghai’s Huangpu River, Beijing-based practice OPEN Architecture has transformed five giant aviation fuel tanks into Tank Shanghai, a new contemporary art museum and open park. Developed over six years, the adaptive reuse project not only creates a new cultural asset for the city, but also helps reconnect residents to the waterfront. 

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overhead shot of a green park area with trees and white, circular buildings

Located on an industrial site, the five decommissioned aviation fuel tanks had belonged to Shanghai’s former Longhua Airport. As part of a greater revitalization plan for the city’s southwest region, OPEN Architecture converted the waste containers into a vibrant community art center with each tank housing different programming. The surrounding landscape was redesigned with long, undulating lawns that emphasize connections with the once-inaccessible Huangpu riverfront and can accommodate a variety of outdoor events, from art festivals to book fairs.

a green area where people sit in the shade of trees

At the heart of the Tank Shanghai design is the introduction of a Z-shaped “Super-Surface”: a five-hectare zigzagging landscape of trees and grasses that weaves together the five tanks and slopes upward to become a green roof for a built structure below. Two tanks are located above the Super-Surface, while the other three are set slightly below. The tanks were retrofitted to include a two-story live-house and bar, a restaurant and art exhibition spaces. The architects preserved the tanks’ industrial exteriors and minimized changes to the facades. Curvilinear outdoor pathways complement the tanks’ rounded forms. 

Related: 10 shipping containers make up this modern, mixed-use structure in Shanghai

an overhead shot of a green, tree-filled area with several buildings including round white buildings and an undulating rooftop

“Tank Shanghai represents a new type of urban art institution—one linking the past and the future, reconnecting people with the natural environment, and fusing art with nature,” explained the architects. “It is an art center without boundaries, and as it continues to assimilate into the life of the city more largely, Tank Shanghai will continue to facilitate and inspire the creation of more inclusive and collective cultural spaces.” Tank Shanghai opened in March 2019.

+ OPEN Architecture

Images by INSAW Image, WU Qingshan, and CHEN Hao