Cooling tower: A unique industrial heritage for rehabilitation

13 December 2017

When it comes to the protection and reuse of industrial heritages, the natural draft cooling tower is an entire new topic. Indeed, by its architecture, there is no other buildings that could offer such a space to reuse which brings you unlimited imagination.The difference of function creates a fantastic atmosphere. Starting with Shougang’s four cooling towers, we discuss how this particular structure will continue to carry the cultural values and collective memories of the old factory, with the highlight of its unique spatial charisma.

The site is located in Shougang factory park. After being used for decades, the four cooling towers and power plants have now been put out of service. The architecture of a cooling tower is composed of a thin shell structure inhyperbolic shape to enable not only natural ventilation, but also without beams, columns and ribs, that minimizes the use of materials. The design of diagonal columns at the bottom structure allows each of the columns to bear thesame weight, wind load and temperature stress. From a structural point of view, we decide to detach the new structure from the shell, in order to minimize the load and prolong the life expectancy of its original reinforced concrete.

(Satellite maps come from the network)

Although the construction year of the four cooling towers varies, there is no difference in their appearance and scale. To avoid repetition, we hope to present the charm of the interior space at different levels and get visitors involved in dialogue between the old and the new.

Cooling Tower model section

9 m elevation model

7 m elevation model

1st floor model

Art dome

The artistic dome not only ensures the user’s comfort, but also creates an ornamental and interesting interior space. The dome is a combination of arches and ring-beams, designed to counteract the horizontal forces so that the top of the tower only bears vertical loads.


Meditation space

When the cooling system is removed, the original function of a cooling tower no more exists. We try to catch the memories by recovering of the water-collecting-basin at ground floor. The column forest is now replaced by a pure white cement surface, with natural light enters through the gap between it and the shell.The patterns on it are a reflection of beams from the old cooling system, and the hyperbolic structure itself echoes the tower.The pure white cement stands in stark contrast to the shell that has been washed and corroded over time. Simple geometries bring out the strength of the structure, and the only entrance design echoes with the diagonal columns. This entrance leads to a 9m-level platform, showing the original appearance of the cooling tower.


Exhibition space

With the corroded shell as a background, it creates a unique viewing experience for art works hanging on the gallery. Along the ramp all the way up to the throat level, standing on the circular platform, you can almost reach the stars at your fingertips. It is easier to understand the spiral ramp as two rigid springs, strong and high enough to be a safety barrier on both sides of the gallery. This will reduce the number of columns which is needed to support the ramp and meanwhile simplify the interior space.


Vertical theater

Taking advantage of the natural sound cohesion inside a cooling tower, building a vertical theater here will be an interesting topic in acoustics. Below the theater is an indoor skydiving wind tunnel — the wind turbine equipment under it is covered by corten steel, becoming a symbol of the reception hall.


Multi-function space

An independent service area is needed to make the best spatial experience out of the other three towers. This is a multi-functional space with many possibilities such as guided tours, conferences and talks, cultural events and more. By gathering these functions of fragments into three blocks, extending their volumes in vertical direction, we are able to release the space in plan. The huge blocks highlight the unusual charm of the space and stand like a monument. Green plants are no longer traditionally placed potted-plants, but cleverly combined with the building to form a three-dimensional landscape on different levels. Triangular openings give view to Shijingshan, lakes around and Yongding River. Hence, the cooling tower becomes an excellent viewing platform.