Ennead Architects win competition for Shanghai nature preserve

15 March 2019
Credit: Ennead Architects
  • Ennead Architects
  • Ennead Architects
  • Ennead Architects
  • Ennead Architects

Ennead Architects





Sustainable concept unites research facility with aquarium

Ennead has been announced as the winner of an international design competition for the Shanghai Yangtze River Estuary Sturgeon Nature Preserve. Located on an island at the mouth of the river and set within a 17.5 ha landscape, the 427,000 sq ft building has a dual function as both an aquarium and a research facility. The plan is to repopulate the dwindling numbers of Chinese sturgeon and finless porpoise, while engaging with the public in order to build popular support for ecological conservation.

The reserve includes a series of interior and exterior pools for breeding and raising both species, mimicking their natural migration into waters of varying size and salinity. Other facilities include a research laboratory, exhibit halls, teaching centre, auditorium and staff dormitory. Visitors will be introduced to the core activities of the institution through an immersive aquarium and exhibit experience. 

The proposed design features dramatic forms that rise in undulating, fluid gestures which bring to mind the rippling surface of the river and the surrounding landscape, while also echoing properties of animal anatomy and a vessel-like ark. Gently curving wooden structural ribs radiate around a central spine that unifies the three wings of the building. Clad in translucent material, the lightweight enclosure system maximises daylight around the interior pools. 

Given the overall function of the reserve, sustainable design is central to the project. The architects included a cross-laminated timber structural system, geothermal heating and cooling loops, constructed wetlands of local flora and waterborne plants for rapid carbon sequestration and a process of biofiltration for aquarium water. The overall landscape design reconstructs the shoreline system and the variety of ecoregions throughout the river basin. This approach also helps the institution’s aim to reach out to the public, with suspended walkways and viewing areas across the campus allowing visitors to immerse themselves in a natural setting, away from the dense urban core of Shanghai.

Lucy Nordberg
TenderStream Head of Research

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