This Gorgeous New Shanghai Park Is an Old Airport Runway — and It's Preserving History in the Coolest Ways
New York City's first municipal airport in Brooklyn is now the Floyd Bennett Field campground. Ecuador's Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito has become a large public space, Parque Bicentenario. And following that trend, one of the latest former airports to find a new use is Shanghai's Longhua Airport, which is now the Xuhui Runway Park.
Until 1949, Longhua Airport, located in the Xuhui Riverfront Area, was the only civilian airport serving the Chinese city, but after operating for more than 80 years, the facility was shut down in 2011. It left behind a 6,004-foot-long and 262-foot-wide runway that had been built in 1948, according to the global design firm Sasaki's site.
So the project was born to transform the drab concrete slab into a "runway of modern life," as the firm described, explaining that it wanted to retain the site's history as an airport, but also create an open space as a "respite from the high-density redevelopment around [it]," while adhering to sustainable practices.
Now the Xuhui Runway Park is a public pathway aligned right next to a linear park, so that the "motion of the runway" still thrives, but now as a walkway for bikers and pedestrians, as they move through different topographical sections, such as a sunken garden. "The ascending and descending movement, with overlooks created for pedestrians and cyclists, resembles the experience of being on an airplane, which connects visitors to the past while also providing varied viewpoints of the site," Sasaki explains on its site.
Additionally, visitors will find little odes to the aeronautical past with benches that resemble parts of aircrafts, light posts that resemble airplane wings, and even airplane-shaped leaves on its trees. Pieces of the original runway concrete have also been repurposed into the design. Original markings from the runway have also been preserved.
Besides the walkway, Xuhui Runway Park also has a playground, three fountains (Silver Wings Fountain, Children's Interactive Fountain, Runway Fountain — the latter which uses treated storm water on site), and a large open lawn space that can host up to 3,500 people, while smaller alcoves include a birdwatching grove, riverfront outlooks, a butterfly garden, and a fragrance garden. All the wildlife habitats include plant species from the Yangtze River Delta, with a total of 82 plant species, which includes 2,227 trees.
Completed in April 2020, the 36-acre site has already been showered with accolades, including the DFA Design for Asia Awards Merit Award and Boston Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award for Design.