MAD architects unveils plans to perch futuristic "ark" atop a cement factory ruin in shanghai

Designboom_ MAD Architects unveils The Ark, a futuristic renovation proposal for the Shanghai Zhangjiang Cement Factory’s Wanmicang warehouse. This project aims to hybridize modernity with China‘s history, breathing new life into a once-decaying industrial site, now envisioned as a multifunctional public waterfront space integrating culture, creativity, retail, and shared offices. The Shanghai Zhangjiang Cement Factory was once among the three largest cement factories in Shanghai. Built in 1971, it played a pivotal role in Shanghai’s growth until it ceased production in 2013. The Wanmicang warehouse, originally a hub for raw material intake, remains the largest standing structure in the cement factory.

The design team at MAD Architects envisions its cement factory intervention, The Ark, as a campus for businesses within a fluid architectural space, celebrating the contemporary and the future. The proposal retains the original industrial character of the warehouse, with an ark-like metal structure replacing the former roof. This duality of rough concrete and smooth metal breathes new life into the deteriorating building, converting it into a versatile urban living space. The warehouse’s rusticated facade has been meticulously repaired and reinforced to become an integral part of the new environment, while a suspended glass curtain wall on the west side creates a vibrant public space.

Industrial heritage is preserved and utilised not only because of the historical memories it carries, but more importantly because it gives the future a sense of history. So we don’t need to celebrate and consolidate industrial aesthetics here, but rather focus on the spirit of the contemporary and the future,‘ explains Ma Yansong, founding partner of MAD Architects.

The spacious interiors by MAD Architects capitalize on the warehouse’s elongated volume, offering visitors an immersive experience of The Ark. A monumental metal staircase ascends through a fluid portal toward the rooftop, while a tiered garden houses creative and cultural areas below. A glass curtain wall gracefully separates the old factory wall from the floating ark overhead. Natural light filters through the gaps, illuminating the garden and reflecting off the stainless steel ceiling, creating a sense of light and greenery. The shifting angles of sunlight animate the old bricks, invoking a sense of time’s passage and the site’s historical significance.

To provide a riverside view, the first floor of the old factory building opens up to integrate with the waterfront plaza. Meanwhile, a central corridor connects the park plaza with the riverbank, while a newly designed bridge allows access across the river. The rooftop is conceived as an additional urban public space, offering sweeping views of the Chuanyang River in the distance. The Ark’s eaves gently slope to optimize this view and minimize any imposing presence on the riverbanks. The floating effect of the ark is achieved through new columns, floor trusses, spanning trusses, and large beams. Meanwhile, the old walls are fortified and repaired to preserve their historic character.