in shanghai, OPEN transforms aviation fuel tanks into 'containers of culture'

in shanghai, OPEN transforms aviation fuel tanks into 'containers of culture'

after more than six years of design and construction, OPEN architecture has completed ‘TANK shanghai’ — a major new cultural complex in china. the institution opened on march 23, 2019 with a digital installation by japanese collective teamlab forming one of three inaugural exhibitions. located on the huangpu river in shanghai’s west bund, the contemporary art center joins an exhibition venue by archi-union on a site that will soon be home to an art museum designed by david chipperfield.

tank shanghai art park
a Z-shaped ‘super-surface’ connects the scheme
image by wu qingshan (also main image)



located on the river bank, the site was once home to an airport with its aviation fuel tanks and ancillary facilities left abandoned. OPEN architecture sought to ‘transform the containers of fuel into containers of culture, while paying tribute to the site’s industrial past.’ central to the project’s design is a Z-shaped ‘super-surface’. above ground, two open plazas comprise greenery, water features, small galleries, and public artworks — allowing people to move freely between nature and art.

tank shanghai art park
two open plazas comprise greenery, water features, and public artworks
image by OPEN architecture



below the new terrain is a network of circulation routes that connects the galleries that are housed within the repurposed fuel tanks. one tank has become a space for live music performances, another a restaurant, and the third is now home to three exhibition spaces. ‘each of these transformations, which thoughtfully preserve and in some cases retain largely untouched the original features of the tanks, had to overcome significant design and construction challenges posed by the constraints of working with the existing structure of each tank,’ explains the design team.

tank shanghai art park
people are encouraged to move freely between nature and art
image by OPEN architecture



alongside teamlab’s exhibition, titled ‘universe of water particles in the tank’, two other inaugural displays are currently on view: ‘under construction’, a group show of contemporary chinese artists, and a solo exhibition of the work of argentinian sculptor adrián villar rojas. impressively, OPEN reports that TANK shanghai’s debut exhibitions attracted nearly 10,000 visitors during the opening weekend.

tank shanghai art park
a network of circulation routes connects the galleries
image by wu qingshan

tank shanghai art park
the former fuel tanks have been repurposed
image by wu qingshan

tank shanghai art park
an aerial view of the site
image by wu qingshan

tank shanghai art park
masterplan of TANK shanghai
image by OPEN architecture

tank shanghai art park
the site’s previously existing condition
image by OPEN architecture



project info:


design year: 2013-2019
status: built
client: shanghai west bund development group, TANK shanghai
program: art galleries, event spaces, restaurant, café, live music club, museum offices and art storage
building area: 10,845 sqm
site area: 47,448 sqm
location: west bund, xuhui district, shanghai, china


architects: OPEN architecture
principal-in-charge: li hu, huang wenjing
project team: ye qing, luo ren, victor quiros, zhou tingting, chen xiuyuan, li zhentao, zhao yao, lu di, jia han, zhang yiwen, steven shi, zhou xiaochen, huang zhonghan, laurence chan, cynthia yurou cui, yang qi, ge can, gao qi, stephanie lee, jin boan, zhang hao, wang mangyuan, yan dihua, zhang chang, tomas kowalsky, jiang simin
local design institute: tongji architectural design group
landscape design: beijing EDSA orient planning & landscape architecture co., ltd.
lighting consultant: shanghai ming chi architecture and engineering co., ltd.

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
    all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    architecture news

    keep up with our daily and weekly stories
    504,281 subscribers
    - see sample
    - see sample
    designboom magazine