Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture

Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Exterior Photography, CityscapeTank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Exterior PhotographyTank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Interior PhotographyTank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Exterior PhotographyTank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - More Images+ 25

Shanghai, China
  • Partners In Charge: Hu Li, Wenjing Huang
  • Design Team: Qing Ye, Ren Luo, Victor Quiros, Tingting Zhou, Xiuyuan Chen, Zhentao Li, Yao Zhao, Di Lu, Han Jia, Yiwen Zhang, Steven Shi, Xiaochen Zhou, Zhonghan Huang, Laurence Chan, Cynthia Yurou Cui, Qi Yang, Can Ge, Qi Gao, Stephanie Lee, Boan Jin, Hao Zhang, Mangyuan Wang, Dihua Yan, Chang Zhang, Tomas Kowalsky, Simin Jiang
  • Local Design Institute: Tongji Architectural Design
  • Ldi Team: Xiaolan Sun, Xinpei Zhang, Xiang She, Jinxin Yu, Fayang Yu, Zhenzhong Tang, Pan Wu, Xiaofeng Sun, Dong Zhou
  • Client: Shanghai West Bund Development Group Co.Ltd
  • City: Shanghai
  • Country: China
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Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Exterior Photography, Cityscape
© INSAW Image

Text description provided by the architects. Along the banks of Shanghai's Huangpu River, five decommissioned aviation fuel tanks once stood abandoned on an empty industrial site. Today, these tanks and the surrounding site—forgotten relics of the city's former Longhua Airport—have been given new life and relevancy by OPEN Architecture. Over the course of six years, the five tanks were converted from waste containers to a vibrant contemporary art center, with galleries and other public spaces housed within the tanks themselves. One of the world’s rare examples of the adaptive re-use of aviation fuel tanks, Tank Shanghai has attracted millions of visitors since its opening in March 2019 and has solidified its place in the city’s contemporary art scene.

Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Exterior Photography, Chair
Urban Forest. Image © INSAW Image
Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Exterior Photography
Super-surface. Image © Fangfang Tian

Conceived of as both an art museum and an open park, Tank Shanghai sets itself apart as a sanctuary for both people and nature. Open, accessible, and seamlessly integrated with the surrounding landscape, the project not only pays tribute to the site’s industrial past, but also seeks to dissolve conventional ideas of site limitations and demarcations.

Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Interior Photography
Urban Plaza Platform. Image © INSAW Image

Tank Shanghai’s design purposefully rejects the idea of a bordered site. Long, sloping landscaped meadows down to and around each tank gallery offer open access to the street and riverside, inviting visitors and passerby to move freely between the city, nature, and art. Amidst the backdrop of Shanghai’s many more exclusive cultural projects, this gesture creates surprising social inclusivity. Many of those who come to the Tanks do so not only to view an art show, but also to jog or picnic on the project’s undulating landscaped lawns. This unusually open approach to the museum space has already brought about unexpected benefits and inspired new operational models for the art center. Within a year, Tank Shanghai has hosted not only high-profile art exhibitions but also a fashion week, book fair, art festival, and AI conference. By introducing new audiences to the traditionally closed-off space of the art center, Tank Shanghai has brought unprecedented energy to the formerly industrial neighborhood and to the southwest banks of the city at large.

Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Exterior Photography
Stepped Waterscape. Image © INSAW Image
Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Exterior Photography, Facade
Art Center Main Entrance. Image © Qingshan Wu

Central to the project’s design is the merging of architecture and landscape through a Z-shaped “Super-Surface”—a 5 hectare landscaped swath of trees and grasses which connects the five tanks and weaves different elements of the site together. Two of the tanks sit above the Super-Surface, while the other three sit halfway below, creating free-flowing indoor public spaces and offering opportunities to access each of the tanks’ galleries from beneath. Entrance ramps to each tank are wrapped with steel panels, which enter into dialogue with the curved structures of the existing tanks; steps around the tanks double as seating for the café. Floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights flood these otherwise dimmer underground spaces with light and allow gallery visitors to observe seasonal changes in the park landscape beyond. 

Tank Axons 1-3
Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Interior Photography, Windows
Ramp to Tank 3. Image © Qingshan Wu

With the Super-Surface stretching across the site from the Huangpu River to Longteng Avenue, Tank Shanghai restores public access to the once inaccessible Huangpu riverfront. Multiple trails across the park offer visitors the opportunity to experience not only the riverfront, but other public spaces as well. A stepped waterscape leading down toward a paved urban plaza brings visitors to hidden misting devices that create a cooling fog in the plaza in the summer; flanking the south side of the plaza is an “Urban Forest” of trees and local grasses which provide shade and a brief reprieve in nature. Covering the eastern portion of the site, a second grassy plaza provides open space for events and leisure, and doubles as a standing room for audiences during outdoor music festivals.

Tank Axons 4-5
Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Interior Photography
Tank 4 Entrance. Image © Fangfang Tian
Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Interior Photography
Gallery Space in Tank 4. Image © Qingshan Wu

Two smaller galleries, together with a myriad collection of freely accessible public art installations, are scattered across the park. Wrapped in mirrored stainless steel, the Tanks’ Reflecting Gallery is secluded within the Urban Forest. A second, multipurpose Project Space, overlooking the river and a tree-lined reflecting pool, features a saw-toothed roofline that deliberately juxtaposes the curvilinearity of the tanks. 

Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Interior Photography, Stairs, Handrail
Steps Integrated with Seating. Image © Qingshan Wu

The design strategy employed to retrofit the five tanks varies according to the requirements of the different programs housed within them. Tank 1—a two-story live-house and bar—contains a drum-shaped inner tank with curving walls that improve the space’s acoustics for musical performances. Tank 2—a restaurant—is organized around a circular central courtyard, on top of which rests a roof deck for alfresco dining. Tank 3 remains intentionally unchanged, with its original interiors offering a unique domed space for displaying large contemporary artworks and installations. The addition of an operational oculus skylight allows natural light and even rain to enter the gallery interior. Tank 4 contains a three-level cube that offers more conventional spaces for gallery and canvas art, while Tank 5 features an additive rectangular volume that passes through the body of the tank and emerges on either side to form two stages on both ends. From the exterior the surface of all of the tanks preserve their original industrial aesthetics; only occasional round or capsule-shaped openings and portholes were added. 

Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Exterior Photography
Opening towards the Huangpu River. Image © Qingshan Wu
Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture - Exterior Photography, Windows
© INSAW Image

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. 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 / OPEN Architecture - Exterior Photography, Garden
Reflecting Gallery in Urban Forest. Image © INSAW Image

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Project location

Address:2380 Longteng Avenue, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China

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Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
About this office
Cite: "Tank Shanghai / OPEN Architecture" 10 Mar 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/935196/tank-shanghai-open-architecture> ISSN 0719-8884

© Qingshan Wu

上海油罐艺术中心 / OPEN Architecture

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