Design

How a Forsaken Industrial Site Became a Contemporary Art Landmark in Shanghai

Tank Shanghai, from oil container to art container. Discover the inspiring journey of 5 abandoned fuel tanks.
Bird view of Tank Shanghai

Located along the banks of the Huangpu River, Tank Shanghai is the fruit of more than 6 years of work. Originally, the area hosted five fuel tanks for airplanes. As the architecture studio OPEN calls them “the forgotten relics of the city’s former Longhua Airport” have been given a fresh makeover and will now serve a new purpose. The new site will now feature art exhibitions, as well as vibrant public spaces both inside and outside the tanks. The architecture firm behind the project has been awarded the prestigious Interior Design 2019 Best of Year Awards, winning against more than 2,000 other competing projects. OPEN architecture describes: “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, before renovation works
Tank Shanghai’s public space. Credit: photo by OPEN Architecture

The project is a great tribute to Shanghai’s industrial past, it conveys visitors a sense of modernity and peace and keeps the original layout and shapes of the site. Each tank will serve a unique purpose: a two-story live-house and bar with a structure designed to enhance acoustic performance, a restaurant and a rooftop dining experience, a big space for large-scale displays for art exhibitions, and finally an art gallery. OPEN commented “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.”

Tank Shanghai Public Court. Credit: photo by OPEN Architecture

One year later, the site has attracted millions of visitors, turning Shanghai’s Huangpu riverside into an increasingly dynamic spot celebrating the industrial and avant-garde spirit of the city. OPEN space concludes: “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 Masterplan View. Credit: photo by OPEN Architecture


This is the inspiring story of Tank Shanghai, from oil container to art container. Have you already visited? In case you’ve missed it, last year creative label Teamlab did an outstanding exhibition called “Universe of Water Particules in The Tank”. Enjoy the video and photos below:

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