ennead architects has won an international design competition to build a nature reserve in china. located on an island at the mouth of the yangtze river, the ambitious plan involves rescuing critically endangered species and restoring biodiversity to a habitat beset by pollution and the impact of previous construction. the scheme also seeks to raise public awareness in order to protect the wildlife that exists in, and in close proximity to, the country’s longest river.

ennead architects nature reserve
all images courtesy of ennead architects



the project, officially referred to as the ‘shanghai yangtze river estuary chinese sturgeon nature preserve’, has been led by ennead design partner thomas wong, alongside landscape architecture firm andropogon. set within a 17.5-hectare landscape, the 427,000 square foot building contains an aquarium and a research department. the facilities bring together efforts to increase the numbers of chinese sturgeon and finless porpoise with public engagement designed to build support for ecological conservation.

ennead architects nature reserve
the 427,000 square foot nature reserve building contains an aquarium and a research facility



the program includes a series of interior and exterior pools for breeding and raising both species, as well as research facilities dedicated to their reintegration into the wild. importantly, the project makes the work of the institution visible to visitors through an immersive aquarium and exhibit experience.

ennead architects nature reserve
the program includes a series of interior and exterior pools



externally, the design features forms that rise in undulating, fluid gestures taking cues from the rippling surface of the river and the surrounding landscape. gently curving wooden structural ribs radiate around a central spine that unites the three wings of the building. clad in translucent PTFE, the lightweight enclosure envelops the pools to create a luminous, daylight-maximizing interior.

ennead architects nature reserve
the project makes the work of the institution visible to visitors



the design integrates highly sustainable strategies, including: a cross-laminated timber structural system, geothermal heating and cooling loops, constructed wetlands of local flora, waterborne plants for rapid carbon sequestration, and a process of biofiltration for aquarium water. meanwhile, the landscape design reconstructs the shoreline and the variety of eco-regions found throughout the yangtze river basin. suspended walkways and viewing areas connect the campus, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the natural setting.

ennead architects nature reserve
a cross-laminated timber structural system envelops the interior pools

ennead architects nature reserve
suspended walkways and viewing areas connect the campus



project info:


name: shanghai yangtze river estuary chinese sturgeon nature preserve
location: mouth of the yangtze river, near shanghai, china
architect: ennead architects
status: competition winning design

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