When I saw Shougang Park for the first time, I was awestruck. I was impressed not just by the stylish appearance of the venue, but also by the fascinating idea of how an industrial wasteland was repurposed first as a park and tourist attraction and, later, as an Olympic venue.
For those who don’t know about Shougang Park, what follows is a bit of history. Originally built all the way back in 1919 in Shijingshan District, Shougang was a steel mill that operated in the capital until 2005, when operations were relocated to Hebei Province in order to reduce pollution in Beijing ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The mill remained silent and shut for a long time after the Summer Games, but in the 2010s plans were afoot to fix that. In 2019, plans to turn the site into a venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics were announced. Developers didn’t want to wait until the Games to repurpose the mill site, though, and it was quickly turned into a park and tourist attraction, with tours of the mill on offer, restaurants, and more.
Once you step inside, you will be able to see industrialized remnants such as washed-out chimneys and huge blast furnaces that were once used to produce steel. These large concrete towers from old steelworks provide a dramatic backdrop for Olympic venues, with some Western media quick to describe the scene as dystopian.
After tooling around a bit, we made a beeline to Big Air, the venue where some of the world’s top freestyle skiers and big air snowboarders made history. Seeing the jump up close and in person for the first time was a mind-blowing experience, it’s a whole lot steeper than it looks on TV!
As I looked down the slope, I could only imagine how Eileen Gu managed to perform such gravity-defying jumps and flips. The ramp has a near 50-degree angle and it is as high as a 20-story building. I have no doubt it would take a tremendous amount of courage to take the plunge from this man-made mountain.
Another thing that stood out was the design of the platform. Not only does Big Air Shougang make for a stunning feat of engineering, but a visually impressive one as well.
Not too far away from Big Air stands Shangri-La Shougang Park Hotel, where hospitality meets industrial designs. When I first walked inside the hotel, a thought hit me: I’ve never seen a Shangri-La quite like this! Unlike other Shangri-La locations, where luxurious interiors dominate, this branch is essentially transformed from an old power plant into an urban living space.
Inside the hotel, you’ll find old pipes and other items repurposed. There’s even a red steel spiral staircase that connects different public spaces.
Past the hotel lies Xiuchi Lake, which was built in 1940 and was once used to store the water needed to produce steel. After the park was repurposed, the entire lake was simply made a part of the park, making for a nice place to stroll when the weather is right.
Not too far away from the Xiuchi Lake is the No. 3 Blast Furnace. First impression? This thing is massive. Then I learned that it was actually Shougang’s first large-scale blast furnace that has a capacity of more than 2,500 cubic meters, as big as an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Today, the furnace has been turned into a book and gift shop, where you can score trinkets, Olympics memorbilia, and even ice cream shaped like the furnace itself.
Touristy day trip, relaxing space, Olympic venue, former steel mill. These are the many faces of Shougang Park, a one-of-a-kind experience in the capital that’s definitely worth a day trip!
Read: Chugging Into Beijing: A Hole into the Capital’s Railway History
Images: Irene Li, Dianping