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cotton park by AIM architecture in Changzhou, china

Having reached one trillion in GDP since 2023, Changzhou, an ancient city with a history dating back 3,000 years, has recently embraced a more intimate urban experience by prioritizing quality over quantity. In line with that vision, Chinese practice AIM Architecture has completed Cotton Park, a community project that breathes new life into Changzhou by repurposing and regenerating four large oil tanks. Today, these industrial giants welcome visitors inside a versatile hub, where cultural events, local engagement, and gatherings can take shape.

all images © Dirk Weiblen @dirkweiblen

converted oil tanks with an ethereal character

The four tanks at Cotton Park possess a distinctive quality due to their initial purpose, primarily designed to facilitate industrial processes rather than being centered around the human scale. ‘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. At that moment we realized that the essence of the project lays in preserving the tank walls and harnessing the ethereal lighting from above,’ comments the team at AIM Architecture. This influenced the studio’s decision to preserve the existing architecture as best as possible, driven by sustainability concerns and a respect for the historical heritage of the local industry. 

AIM architecture repurposes four oil tanks into a skylit community hub in changzhou
Cotton Park by AIM Architecture

climate controlled interiors and multifaceted program

As a result, AIM has chosen to connect the four silos by carving a direct path through their center, curating a captivating journey and enabling visitors to traverse all four tanks with their own distinct program and, along the way, indulge in different experiences. For example, placing a glass house in two of the silos highlights the structures’ powerful internal character while creating a comfortable and controllable interior climate; the opening on top creates natural air convection between the silos and glass house, avoiding internal overheating in summer. ‘Strategically integrating the heating and cooling infrastructure into the floors allows us to keep these industrial ‘churches’ free from visible technology. One silo is hardly touched and ‘un-programmed’. Letting the light, height, and its original power to do its wonder, making it a pure extension of the park for people to enjoy,’ explain the designers. 

AIM architecture repurposes four oil tanks into a skylit community hub in changzhou
skylights embue the inside of the silos with an ethereal quality

Complementing the steel layers is a brick palette inspired by the canal. This material pays homage to the steel barges that transport red bricks, supporting China’s burgeoning developments. Here, bricks are laid out in a straightforward stack, giving rise to a distinct inner realm within the restaurant silo. Adjacent to the curved inner walls, they form pathways for visitors to traverse, providing guidance and grounding the site within its surroundings. Cutting the skin of the silo provided AIM Architecture with material to cover the walkway, reducing the need for new materials. This connection links tanks with the park, where a circular climbing structure and park-facing terraces enhance community engagement and attraction.

AIM architecture repurposes four oil tanks into a skylit community hub in changzhou
the new cultural hub features four repurposed oil tanks

AIM architecture repurposes four oil tanks into a skylit community hub in changzhou
creating engaging experiences for the local community

Brandhaus
Brandhaus