What is old factory adaptive reuse to a site like Hongdu? What is urban renewal to an industrial town like Nanchang? At YIYU Design Studio, we believe these processes are memorials and reflections of our heritage. They also represent an imaginative attitude towards a life full of new possibilities.
As the former home to China’s military aviation manufacturing industry, Hongdu once held the important mission of creating countless aircraft to fulfill man’s dream to fly. As the first part of the Nanchang old town to be redeveloped, the AVIC Park project transforms an old aircraft factory into a creative center for the community. In doing so, it aims to preserve a piece of architectural history and revive from memory the building’s rich past.
The design of the park, completed in 2016, begins at the front plaza. To capture the spirit of flying, the façade utilises the language of a folded paper plane. The sculptural benches in the plaza also take on the folding language so that ergonomically, they allow one to sit or lie down to gaze into the sky. To complete the picture, an interactive fountain in the plaza mimics the trails of white mist which we often see behind jet aircraft, bringing the space to life with a sense of energy and movement.
Continuing to be inspired by the site’s aviation history, an existing infrastructural bridge is integrated into a meandering path as a bridge in the sky. Hovering high above ground, this bridge has the best vantage point in the park. From there, one can discover a playground in the valley below, distinguished by its colorful, topographic contours. Integrated water vapor simulating clouds drift lightly over the grounds, creating a dreamy and magical world for children to enjoy.
Besides retaining the original factory structure, the project also preserved the existing natural surroundings as much as possible, because every tree is a witness to Hongdu’s history: an important memory-keeper, as well as the guardian of this land. With this respectful attitude in mind, the design made room for every single tree, meandering pathways around each one. The wooded area at the entrance of the park becomes the so-called ‘Stage of Trees’ where the community can come together for a variety of social activities. Accompanied by the soft whistles of the wind, footpaths weave through the park under the shadows of the trees, the perfect place for an afternoon walk.
The winding paths also serve another function: connecting three detached houses hidden within the forest. These houses are designed such that they reveal the scale and beauty of nature. Each structure is carefully composed inside the woods to respect the locations of existing trees; some have branches that lightly reach in front of their windows; some have entrances that enjoy the fragrance of orange blossoms. Building skins of mirrored stainless steel completely camouflage them in the natural realm. In this way, the built is integrated into nature, merging the landscape completely with our lives.
Beyond preserving history, activating the park, and continuing the local heritage, ensuring a sustainable habitat was also an important objective.
Bioswales, rain gardens, and stormwater treatments are integrated into the design of the park such that it is self-sustaining. In addition, educational signage plates with plant knowledge are placed throughout the park to help children understand nature early on, and encourage them to nurture and protect our environment.
The intimate interaction between human and nature, history and future, along with mutual respect towards one another and a protective understanding for sustainable development are the very ideologies that are embodied in the spirit of Hongdu Airport Park, which seeks to transform Nanchang into an everlasting and timeless habitat.
By creating a series of welcoming open spaces in the well preserved and upgraded factory site, AVIC Park has transformed the old heritage into a new gathering centre for the community. For the town’s residents, it’s a memorable site to recall old stories, an energetic playground to have joy and fun, and also a relaxing space to enjoy the breeze in peace.