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MVRDV to convert Hangzhou Oil Refinery Factory to a green cultural park

The competition-winning design will transform the former industrial district into an energy-neutral cultural centre set amidst a parametric forest.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jun 14, 2023

A former oil factory located along the southern end of The Grand Canal—one of the world's oldest and longest man made canals, situated in China, is to be transformed into a vibrant cultural centre by Dutch firm MVRDV. This mixed-use project is part of China's urban intervention to convert the industrial stretch all along the 1,700 km length of the river into a social amenity that not only provides water to millions but could also be used for the well-being of people. This is a symbolic gesture of conversion from an economic resource to a community resource. The canal provided employment for generations, and when the factories started getting abandoned and further razed, it was only fitting to do something for the people with this land. In harmony with this intent, the 18-hectare site will house a science and art museum at its centre along with offices, retail and immersive cultural experiences, set amidst luscious greens and vestiges from the oil refinery’s past.

  • An aerial view of the park complex |Hangzhou Oil Refinery Factory Park | MVRDV| STIRworld
    An aerial view of the park complex Image: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Structures of the park as seen from along the canal |Hangzhou Oil Refinery Factory Park | MVRDV| STIRworld
    Structures of the park as seen from along the canal Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

Rotterdam-based firm MVRDV often approaches its projects by trying to find the most sustainable, future-friendly green solutions. As a prototype for future industrial to cultural transformations along the canal, MVRDV collaborated with Rotterdam and Milan based landscape design firm Openfabric to come up with a concept attuned to the global pressing need to switch the use of fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The erstwhile fossil-fuel-storing silos of the factory are integrated into the design in various forms, some transformed, some simply removed, and their absence is suggested by the circle paths around their former location. These forms house immersive art experiences, kiosks, as well as enclosed gardens, all interspersed amidst the greenery of the park to ensure a leisurely experience. The towers of the refinery buildings are also retained and used with the help of stairs and platforms that function as viewing decks for the park.

  • Landscape design along the positions of the silos |Hangzhou Oil Refinery Factory Park | MVRDV| STIRworld
    Landscape design along the positions of the silos Image: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Retaining and reusing the old refinery infrastructure |Hangzhou Oil Refinery Factory Park | MVRDV| STIRworld
    Retaining and reusing the old refinery infrastructure Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

The art and sci-tech centre is at the nucleus of this complex, its cylindrical form inspired by the aforementioned silos. Within these cylinders is a complex massing of rectangular boxes staggered and stacked above one another, housing studios, offices, and commercial spaces. The negative spaces formed by the staggering are terraces that allow public programmes like museums, performance spaces, installation areas, and event spaces all connected by stairs and bridges. These boxes rest on the top of a large, circular exhibition hall at the base, partially below the ground level. This structure is enclosed by an innovative, solar façade. The permeable outer façade allows breezes to enter the building, which helps regulate the temperature inside. This passive ventilation system takes advantage of natural air movement to cool or warm the interior spaces, depending on the prevailing weather conditions. An array of LEDs cover the façade to create a captivating media display that can be used to entertain visitors or promote events happening inside. This dynamic lighting feature not only enhances the building's appearance but also helps establish it as the focal point of the park and creates a visually engaging experience, particularly during night-time. Furthermore, the façade integrates thousands of small photovoltaic spots, forming a "solar painting" that generates energy from sunlight. These spots are placed parametrically, taking into account the available sunlight and exposure, thus capitalising on the building's surface area to harness solar power, contributing to its sustainability and reducing its reliance on conventional energy sources. “As a planet, we know we need to move on from oil on a massive scale,” mentioned MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas. “But that raises the question, what should we do with all this infrastructure that was created? It is somehow, at the same time, tempting to make a clean break with history, and romantic to imagine a future where we build upon the ruins of the past. With this project we do both: we incorporate the old industrial structures, while newly built elements – which are clearly distinguishable from the old – show us a better, more sustainable future. The old ‘fossils’ turn into energetic drums.”

  • Night-time view of the Center and its impact |Hangzhou Oil Refinery Factory Park | MVRDV| STIRworld
    Night time view of the centre and its impact Image: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Innovative solar façade with LEDs and Solar Painting |Hangzhou Oil Refinery Factory Park | MVRDV| STIRworld
    Innovative solar façade with LEDs and a solar painting on the facade Image: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Interior of the Center housing a garden |Hangzhou Oil Refinery Factory Park | MVRDV| STIRworld
    Interior of the centre housing a garden Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

The existing structures in the rest of the park are reused by transforming them into offices or retail spaces, while those that have been demolished are replaced with similar structures, all built incorporating the façade design similar to that of the art and sci-tech centre. New office buildings are proposed on the southeast end of the park. All these structures will be placed amidst an immaculate landscape design with the position and species of plantation determined by computing factors such as shading, food production, and biodiversity to generate a parametric forest. This cohesively ties the design together as a 'park'. Maas' innovations in sustainable architecture and foresight continue to stand out and provide modern, green solutions that engrain nature into contemporary culture and lifestyle. With his design for harvesting of the solar power, the park may as well actively contribute energy to the grid. This design hopes to serve not only as a cultural asset but also as an economic asset for the people of China.

  • Diagram explaining the transformation made by MVRDV |Hangzhou Oil Refinery Factory Park | MVRDV| STIRworld
    Diagram explaining the transformation made by MVRDV Image: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Experience walking through the culture park |Hangzhou Oil Refinery Factory Park | MVRDV| STIRworld
    Visualised experience of walking through the culture park Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

Project Details

Name: Hangzhou Oil Refinery Factory Park
Location: Hangzhou, China
Year: 2023
Client: Hangzhou Grand Canal Protection Development and Construction Group; Hangzhou Chenxiang Industrial Heritage Comprehensive Protection and Development Co. Ltd.
Size and Programme: 17-hectare masterplan (art and sci-tech centre, offices, retail, public park)
Architect: MVRDV
Founding Partner in charge: Winy Maas
Partner: Wenchian Shi
Design Team: Kyo Suk Lee, Cosimo Scotucci, Yunxi Guo, Americo Iannazzone, Shushen Zhang, Gioele Colombo, Kefei Yan, Samuel Tam, Jiani You, Alexander Da Costa Gomez, Ming Kong, Kevin Zhao, Sean Wang
Visualisations: Antonio Luca Coco, Lorenzo d'Alessandro, Luana La Martina, Pavlos Ventouris, Jaroslaw Jeda, Angelo La Delfa, Marco Fabri, Stefania Trozzi, Ciprian Buzdugan
Strategy and Development: Jammy Zhu
Landscape Architect: Openfabric
Structural engineer, Building Physics, and Environmental advisor: Buro Happold

(Text by Aatmi Chitalia, intern at STIRworld)

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