Ennead Architects has won the international design competition to design the new Shanghai Yangtze River Estuary Nature Preserve in China. Located on an island at the mouth of the Yangtze River, the design was made to raise public awareness around the impact of pollution and construction. The nature reserve aims to rescue critically endangered species and restore biodiversity while allowing visitors to immerse themselves in a natural setting outside the dense urban core of Shanghai.
Led by Ennead Design Partner Thomas Wong, in partnership with Andropogon Landscape Architects, the project is set within a 17.5-hectare landscape. The 427,000 GSF building comprises a dual-function aquarium and research facility, bringing together efforts to repopulate dwindling numbers of Chinese Sturgeon and Finless Porpoise. The program includes a series of interior and exterior pools for breeding and raising both species mimicking their natural migration into waters of varying size and salinity, as well as facilities dedicated to their research and reintegration to their natural habitat. The project makes the institution's work visible to visitors through an immersive aquarium and exhibit experience, bringing them into direct contact with its activities.
The new nature preserve and aquarium is designed to build popular support for ecological conservation. The project features undulating and fluid forms that take cues from the rippling surface of the river and the iconic landscape of the Upper Yangtze. Curving wooden structural ribs radiate around a central spine that joins the three wings of the building into a singular unified expression. Clad in translucent PTFE, the lightweight enclosure system envelops the interior pools to create a luminous, daylight-maximizing interior.
As the team states, the design combines a cross-laminated timber structural system, geothermal heating and cooling loops, constructed wetlands of local flora and waterborne plants for rapid carbon sequestration and a process of biofiltration for aquarium water. In turn, the landscape design reconstructs the shoreline system and the variety of ecoregions throughout the Yangtze River basin.