Fishway Observatory of Minjiang Qianwei Hydroelectric Hub Project | Chengdu Shangcheng Design Office | Architect of The Year Awards 2023

Chengdu Shangcheng Design Office: Winner of Architect of The Year Awards 2023. This project is located within Qianwei County, Leshan City. The primary component is the Minjiang River Qianwei Avionics Hub Project, with the fish observatory room as a subsidiary function of the main project.

To protect the fish in Minjiang River basin, the Qianwei Avionics Hub Project has specially designed a fishway to mitigate the impact of the hub on fish population structure and fish resources while facilitating fish migration. This is why observatory room was constructed. On the left bank of the hub, a 2 – kilometer-long ecological fishway has been built with the fish migration route. Fish can use this way for migration, making a significant contribution to the preservation of aquatic biodiversity in the Minjiang River basin and maintaining the ecological balance of the Yangtze River.

This fish observatory room project is located adjacent to the ecological fishway. Once completed, the public will be able to observe the entire process of fish migration and  pawning here. The Minjiang River Avionics Hub Project aims to use this project for publicity and education. It hopes that in the future, this place can become a popular science and education center,continuously exploring new methods and forms of science communication, and providing a broader platform to inspire innovative thinking and scientific exploration practices among juveniles.

Design Philosophy: distinguished from traditional fishway observatory rooms – it served as an industrial-themed fish ecological museum.

The design highlights of the project and the design techniques and innovative ideas applied during the design process are narrated according to different areas.

Fishway observatory room, much like a hydropower station, is primarily a utilitarian structure designed for monitoring fish migration data. Regular fish observatory rooms are typically located underground to facilitate underwater observation and data collection. Based on the owner’s multifunctional requirements for this project in the future,the design process involved extensive discussions, research, and contemplation. As a result, the project has been positioned as a comprehensive architectural entity that distinguishes itself from the traditional single-purpose monitoring function. It integrates data collection (the fundamental requirement) with aspects of visitor experience, learning, education, and tourism.

Taking into account the nature of the fishway observatory room (located for underwater observation) and the actual site conditions, where the site is depressed (making the building’s main structure not visible), there is a need to create visual cues and guidance.

The building consists of three levels: an underground floor for fish observation and introduction, a ground-level landscape and architectural open space (outdoor activities, learning, interaction), and a raised upper floor (for meetings, leisure, and learning). The second floor is cantilevered to create a floating architectural sensation. This allows the building’s presence to be felt from the roadside outside the project.

The entire building is divided into three levels: the underground floor, the ground floor (primarily serving vertical transportation functions), and the second-floor auxiliary function level.

The underground floor has an elevation of -5.6 meters and covers an area of 900 square meters. Its main functions include fish monitoring, visitation, and education.

The ground floor has a building area of 91 square meters and serves primarily for vertical transportation. A significant portion of the space is left as open space and outdoor areas, providing outdoor activities, learning, interaction, and resting spaces for students and visitors who come to visit.

The second floor covers an area of 590 square meters and serves as an auxiliary function level. It includes the entire avionics hub project’s sandbox exhibition area and two resting areas. Visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the vast Minjiang River from these resting areas.

The architectural design approach employs a massing composition method, emphasizing the configuration and volume relationships. The underground portion utilizes a concrete structure, while the above-ground sections are constructed with steel. The materials continue the primary material of the hydroelectric power station (fiber cement panels). While meeting the overall requirements of the project, it creates its own distinctive characteristics.

The interior spaces continue the architectural design approach, unifying the interior and exterior materials. A significant incorporation of traditional hydraulic architectural elements, such as bamboo baskets used for dam construction (bamboo baskets were used to fill with stones, with a diameter of three feet and a length of ten zhang, piled up to form a dam), has been adapted and reintegrated into the interior. These hydraulic elements are creatively incorporated into the interior, allowing water and natural light to enter the space. Through the integration of these elements, an ecological concept is established within the interior.

Project Details
Chengdu Shangcheng Design Office

Li Tianshu

Project Name
Fishway Observatory of Minjiang Qianwei Hydroelectric Hub Project

Public Building Built

Project Location
Leshan, Sichuan, China

Li Tianshu, Zhong Jie, Hou Jun


Photography ©Credit
©Chengdu Jiuleng Culture Communication Co., Ltd.

Chengdu Shangchen Design Office, established by Mr. Li Tianshu in 2003, is an architectural and spatial design research institute that places a strong emphasis on strategic thinking and humanistic care. With extensive experience in integrated design encompassing project planning, architecture, landscape, and interior design, the firm’s integrated design projects are spread throughout the country. Their work revolves around the relationships and values connecting architecture with nature, culture, and society, with conceptualization as the core principle. They oversee the entire process from project planning and schematic design to project realization, with the commitment to providing forward-thinking architectural experiential spaces for their clients.