The site of the Riverside Passage had been a wharf for unloading coal as part of the transport system for the nearby Yangpu Gas Plant. The approximately 90 meters long and 4 meters high reinforced concrete wall along the wharf was built to prevent the unloaded coal from slipping into the river. Since losing its function for transporting coal, the long wall’s existence became one of silence and abandonment. Originally, there had been two walls. The one along the river has long been dismantled. Along the remaining wall, seeds have since landed in the gaps formed by the coal debris, broken concrete, and dust, have sprouted and grown into sizable trees, and are now coexist and complement the long wall. The trees and the abandoned wall form an ambiance that is embodied with meaning accorded to ruins. Such landscapes, however, are rapidly vanishing in Shanghai’s recent bout of urban renewals that are too polished for such ambience. For a renewal project to create a waterfront public space from a logistical space for industrial use, it is important to preserve this existing ambience, as is bears witness to the sophisticated industries in Shanghai of the past half century.

The new proposal takes the long stolid concrete wall as a basis for development, as a foundation with geological meaning. It serves as the basis, for a sloping bridge connecting the flood-control wall and the gap of the wharf, traversing the wild vegetation. It serves as a basis for an elevated open passage, as well as for a resting pavilion. A single-pitched roof demarcates the inside and outside of the wall. Facing inside a garden of ruins between the gap of the wharf and the shore is a passage on the ground. Facing outside is a cantilevered corridor overlooking the river. Where one is grounded, the other is floating, suggesting the scalar and distance differences in perception. 

The wharf no longer used for coal-unloading is now polished into a roller-skating rink, forming, together with the cantilevered passage, a spatial dialogue in closer proximity. The ground, the body of the wall, and the inserted structures create a new ensemble. Visitors may linger at will or move on through. The former coal wharf, thus, has become a place for urban flaneurs. The slender post-and-beam steel structures perform as a series of frames for the urban views, that when visitors move through, they begin to frame the different passing epochs – the former gas plant’s chimney, the bright-colored cranes, tide-washed concrete blocks embedded in mud, buildings rising across the river, and the bridges in the distance.

source: Atelier Deshaus