Built in 1918, Weihai Port was the first commercial port in the city of Weihai, a famous coastal defense fortress in China. After almost 100 years of changes, in 2013 the Port was moved to its new location, leaving the former site idle.
In recent years, building a refined city and renewing the central old town have been enormously emphasized in Weihai, rendering the old port an important anchor point in this process. The design initially focused on the vacant site in order to sew up the gap in the waterfront public space and provide a linkage between water and land.
The architects adopt an unvarnished architectural strategy instead of an epic one for the purpose of joining naturally two key east-west axes from the mountain to the sea. Two parallel axes curve within the site and then spread out towards the open sea, extending the urban life both visually and physically to the waterfront. The axes form an arch geologically, resembling a giant whale surfacing momentarily above the sea, which echoes the local legend of whale bone fossils.
A parking lot and boutique aquarium are embedded in the first basement, and a popular science exhibition area and shopping areas are located on the ground floor. On the first floor, a kids playground and a harbor view restaurant are designed for families; and on the top of the complex a public library will be opened. Inspired by the architectural techniques of “borrowed scenery” and “framed scenery” in traditional Chinese garden design, a huge curtain wall – the “eye of the whale” – is placed on the east facade to incorporate the scene of the famous Liugong Island as a part of the approach to tune up the spatial atmosphere.