AIM Architecture transforms oil silos in China into community park

Cotton Park by AIM Architecture

Cotton Park by AIM Architecture

Chinese studio AIM Architecture has transformed a series of former oil silos in Changzhou into Cotton Park, a mixed-use community space surrounded by a public garden and play areas.

Shanghai-based AIM Architecture was tasked with transforming the hollow silos into a cluster of spaces for the local community to gather and host events.

The four silos remain standing in a row with elements of their weathered-metal forms preserved, serving as a reminder of the area’s industrial heritage.

Exterior view of community space by AIM Architecture
The weathered-metal forms are retained

“Our goal was to breathe new life into the city and foster community engagement by establishing a place where people could gather,” said AIM Architecture.

“Simultaneously, we aimed to create a versatile place capable of hosting various cultural events and gatherings, enriching the local experience,” it added.

To unite the four silos, the studio introduced a straight path that cuts through their large openings.

Interior view of renovated silo by AIM Architecture
The silos offer event space to the local community

This path is formed of glazed corridors and open colonnades, which link their cylindrical forms and can be accessed from the surrounding park and play spaces.

Inside, each silo has been given a different treatment to cater for hosting different activities. In two of the silos, the construction of an inner, glasshouse-like structure allows for the internal conditions to be controlled.

Silo interior at Cotton Park in Changzhou
The four silos are illuminated by skylights

One silo has been left almost entirely unchanged, with its weathered-metal walls left exposed and complemented by a stepped red-brick floor that provides seating.

The fourth silo, which houses a restaurant, is also lined with red bricks, a material that was historically transported on barges in the nearby canal.

TANK Shanghai by OPEN Architecture in China


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A stack of circular brick forms at the centre of the two-storey restaurant supports a timber staircase to its upper level, where newly-created windows in the curving walls provide diners with views out across the nearby park.

Each of the Cotton Park silos is illuminated by a large single skylight at the centre of its roof, creating a dramatic ellipse of light that moves throughout the day.

Restaurant interior at community space by AIM Architecture
One silo contains a two-storey restaurant

“During our first site visit, a ray of sunlight gracefully descended from the top of the silos, casting a flawless ellipse of light on the stained walls,” explained the studio.

“At that moment we realised that the essence of the project lays in preserving the tank walls and harnessing the ethereal lighting from above,” it added.

External play area at Cotton Park in Changzhou
Outdoor play areas surround the four structures

Elsewhere in China, Open Architecture previously converted five aviation fuel containers in Shanghai into a new arts and culture park, connected by a network of underground spaces.

Other recent projects involving repurposed silos include Kunstsilo art gallery in Norway and South Africa’s biggest art museum by Thomas Heatherwick.

The photography is by Dirk Weiblen.

Project credits:

Architect: AIM Architecture
Changzhou Cotton Space Retail Co. Ltd.
Design principals: Wendy Saunders, Vincent de Graaf
Team leader: Chris Cheng
Design team: Emilio Wang Chen, Jin Kang, Jo Jiao, Laile Li, Luqian Lin, Zheng Wei
Visualisation: Steve Do, Yan Jiao
FF&E team: Lili Cheng, Weisha Dai
General contractor: Shanghai Dong Yuan Construction & Renovation Co. Ltd.
Structure consultant: Bespoke
Climate consultant: Paul de Vreede
Display supplier: Yangyu Architectural Construction Co. Ltd.
Lighting supplier: Shanghai Lemida Lighting Design & Engineering Co. Ltd.

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