Home » MVRDV to transform former Chinese oil refinery into energy-neutral district

MVRDV to transform former Chinese oil refinery into energy-neutral district

by Liam Turner
A CGI rendering of MVRDV's Hangzhou development

MVRDV has won a competition to transform a former oil refinery that sites at the southern end of China’s Grand Canal.

The Netherlands-based architectural firm’s design will see the Hangzhou Oil Refinery Factory Park turned into a mixed-used energy-neutral district, complete with an art and science museum at the centre.

The project includes offices, retail, and a variety of cultural experiences set in a green environment “interwoven with the remnants of the past”.

The Hangzhou factory has long closed, and most of the structures that once occupied the site have been demolished; yet, a number of large refinery buildings and some oil storage drums remain.

With the Grand Canal’s future in mind, MVRDV’s design, developed in collaboration with Openfabric, aims to show the potential of industrial-to-cultural transformations.

In addition, the design integrates renewable energy sources to serve as an example of the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy.

The centrepiece of the park is the Art and Sci-tech Centre, a new museum which, with its cylindrical exterior, is imagined as a scaled-up version of the silos that once dotted the site.

The detail

The simple form of the exterior conceals a “highly complex” interior, according to MVRDV.

Atop a circular exhibition hall that is partially buried below ground level, an off-kilter stack of long, rectangular boxes house artists’ studios, offices, and commercial spaces.

The tops of the boxes form a series of terraces, connected by stairs and bridges.

The outer façade of the museum is permeable, allowing breezes to penetrate the structure.

The space inside is thus heated and cooled passively, fluctuating slightly in temperature depending on weather conditions but serving as a thermal buffer to dramatically reduce the energy required to fully heat and cool the building’s programmed spaces inside the boxes.

Covered in an array of LEDs, the museum lights up at night to create a media façade that can be used to entertain visitors or to advertise the events taking place inside.

In addition to these lights, the façade also incorporates thousands of small photovoltaic spots to generate energy from sunlight.

These spots form a “solar painting” that was designed with a parametric approach, considering the solar exposure, prevailing winds, and most notable views to place a higher density of photovoltaics where they are most needed.

‘Energetic drums’

MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas said: “As a planet, we know we need to move on from oil on a massive scale.

“But that raises the question, what should we do with all this infrastructure that was created?

“It is somehow, at the same time, tempting to make a clean break with history, and romantic to imagine a future where we build upon the ruins of the past.

“With this project we do both: we incorporate the old industrial structures, while newly built elements – which are clearly distinguishable from the old – show us a better, more sustainable future.

“The old ‘fossils’ turn into energetic drums.”



In the remainder of the park, existing structures are kept and transformed into offices or retail spaces.

Many of the structures that have already been demolished are recreated with a modern approach – taking the same dimensions as the previous structures, but built with glass and using the same photovoltaic spots that are used on the museum’s façade.

In the south-east of the site, a cluster of new office buildings completes the masterplan.

By turning every newly built building surface also into an energy generator, MVRDV says the park can become energy-negative in operation, contributing energy to the grid.

Maas said: “The park’s natural elements are designed as a parametric forest, with criteria such as a species’ contribution to shading the surroundings, food production, or biodiversity algorithmically determining its placement in the park’s forest landscape; a new symbiosis.”

The towers of the refinery buildings are retained and integrated into the park’s landscape, with stairs and platforms providing views across the park.

The proposal also develops a catalogue of possible uses for the site’s many silos – some transformed from the original structures, while others marked by circles of paving where they originally stood.

Image: A CGI rendering of MVRDV’s Hangzhou development. Credit: MVRDV


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