The existing model for development in the Greater Bay Area strongly prioritizes economic growth, with little regard for social or environmental resilience. This prioritization has led to a hypermodern and polycentric urban pattern with heavy disparity between the cores and sub-cores. The contestation resulting from social inequalities and environmental degradation in the face of the impending water crisis creates the need for a new paradigm that takes into account the adaptive thresholds of the urban realm.
The main goals of the vision constitute synergy between ecology & water networks to achieve resilient bio-physical systems, the spatial redistribution of amenities as well as the redefinition of the existing polycentric development model.
Crosscapes proposes an updated, collaboration based, economic system with two complementary features: development triggers and limitations that work together to redefine the dynamics of the region. A high tech economic development zone in Dongguan and an agricultural innovation zone in Zhongshan will act as the main triggers of development in the GBA. These zones build off of existing economic and social identities that will attract high quality development to these sub-core cities. The limitation strategies focus on the protection of vulnerable populations and natural systems against the negative externalities caused by rapid urban development. This also includes diverting the development pressure from Shenzhen to subcores for mutual resilience and providing more room for natural systems to remediate the region.
In 50 years, the vision will rebalance the socio-economic priorities and reconfigure both spatial and functional relationships between cores and sub-cores. Where a robust bio-physical system will act as the foundation for sustainable development while fostering the social transition. By capitalizing on the synergies between triggers and limitations, an inclusive economic system is formed that will shape a new and just polycentric development model for the GBA.
Dan Watchorn is originally from Ottawa, Canada and previously earned a Bachelor's degree in urban planning. He worked in the municipal sector for 3 years prior to pursuing further education at TU Delft. His main focus is the understanding of how cities and urban design can be used to create a happier and more just world for all.
“In this competitive struggle, the poor and especially the new immigrant populations tend to lose out.” (The World City Hypothesis, John Friedman, 1986)
Socio Economic Vulnerabilities
“It is striking to observe how social segregation and the wider effects of China’s openly recognised social stratification are made visible in urban space.”
(Where are the Chinese Cities Heading?, Jean François Doulet, 2008)
What are the impacts of hypermodernity, particularly focusing on the water crisis and the socio-economic system, on the GBA?
Using the cross as a method of representation highlights centralities across scales. Elements ranging from international airports to neighbourhood parks, and everything in between, represent centres for different types of groups. By using the cross to understand the GBA, factors that both trigger and limit development can be thoroughly understood.
In playing the game, the region can be understood through the testing of scenarios: what happens to the region when large changes occur. Pictured above are the rules laid out for one such scenario. First, the design and adjacencies of the urban clusters was mapped to understand both the dynamics of the urban regions and the complexities of the urban fabric. Next, an urban greenery program was introduced, under density and adjacency constraints, to evaluate the possibilities for urban and natural co-location.
When all iterations are overlaid, the structure of the region becomes apparent. In the existing condition, core cities drive much of the growth and activity. Scenarios including heavily increased water risk and the introduction of new economic zones were introduced to test this doctrine.
Subsequent scenarios investigated the impacts that these tests had on both the flow of migrants and urban form. This revealed that the current definition of polycentricity can be challenged while still pushing forward an improved livability across the region.
Overall, evaluations of the impacts of economic clusters, migration patterns, urban forms, and environmental degradation were completed through the game board process. The final iteration was then analyzed to understand the new manifestation of polycentricity, and therefore where focus should be turned to for further investigation and design. Dongguan and Zhongshan are the sub-core cities that were elevated the most through the game. They are both positioned to provide a greater balance of prosperity both geographically and across the socio-economic ladder in the region. Moving forward, local design completed in these two cities can be done with a keen awareness for the impacts the proposed changes will have at a regional scale.
A rebalanced economic system will bring a new level of social, environmental and economic prosperity for the entire Greater Bay Area. In 50 years, the introduction of a dynamic series of development triggers and limitations will reconfigure spatial and functional relationships between core and sub-core cities. A robust bio-physical system will act as the foundation for sustainable development, and a collaborative economic system will prioritize the equitable distribution of economic opportunities and successes. In turn, the GBA will become a global leader in technological, ecological and social innovation.
The core of the regional vision is created by the introduction of special economic zones in Dongguan and Zhongshan. The SEZ in Dongguan is envisioned as a new centre for technological innovation. In Zhongshan, the SEZ will specialize in research, development, innovation and networking of agriculture. These integrate into the existing regional network to create a constellation of collaboration, innovation and design. A series of ecological interventions, including a mangrove belt along the west of the delta provide the underpinning for the natural system.
Dongguan is reimagined as a new centre for technological innovation. The Special Economic Zone is located in the Changping District, in the north east of the city. The zone is strategically located surrounding an existing train station that connects the area to both Shenzhen and Guangzhou, and is being further supported by the introduction of a new airport. The introduction of this zone will cause the surrounding parts of the city to grow significantly, where various other neighbourhoods will transform into cores unto themselves. The Machongzhen water village will marry this new development pressure with ecological resilience in a sensitive landscape. A new development paradigm for Dongguan will emerge, transforming the city into a global player in technological innovation.
Changping is strategically located at the junction of critical railway lines with a strong provincial and inter-city connect to Humen Port, Bejing, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzen and Zhongshan. Although the city has a well established manufacturing ,development and engineering sector its negative externalities have a rather detrimental impact on the overall prosperity of the region. The design strategy thus invests in these potentialities to evolve as a hightech innovation and service cluster. Which would trigger further upliftment of the region in the near future, which has been envisioned along the lines of a compact city proposal. That would not only cater to increase in the demand for housing and ammenities but the vertical developement would allow for ecology to thrive. Thereby enhancing the livability of the Changping.
Current Situation: Problematization
The existing station area is a fragmented landscape, with disorganized uses spread around in a variety of patterns. The rail line is proposed to form an integrative community space, creating the heart of the new compact city development.
The high tech cluster surrounds the new elevated public space that spans the railway. This creates a vibrant centre to the site that now acts as an axis of movement in all directions. The new multimodal station will trigger development for the wider region. Encouraging convenient movement around the node will enable a greater capacity for innovation, as knowledge sharing between groups is easier. High density residential and mixed use development surrounding the core ensures people can live, work and play all within close proximity.
Interaction at the ground level is key in ensuring the existing sense of place can be translated into a modern development. Urban villages act as important community and cultural spaces, and therefore must be both kept and enhanced to ensure the new neighbourhood is designed for all.
With current intensive manufacturing practices and industrialization, pollution of natural resources like land and water with heavy metals, organic pollutants, radionucliedes, pesticides, and fertilizers has become a major concern in towns like Daojiao, Zengcheng, Machongzhen and Wangniudun. Not to mention the harmful impact on the health of the worker, their well being and living conditions stimulated by such practices. Phytoremediation can thus be seen as a cost-effective and environmentally friendly technique that utilizes plants to immobilize, uptake, reduce toxicity, stabilize, or degrade the compounds that are released into the environment from different sources.
Zhongshan is reimagined as a new heart for research and innovation for the agricultural industry. Its unique geography combines agriculture, aquaculture, urban and natural spaces all into a close proximity. To capitalize on this, a special economic zone is introduced in the northern periphery of the city, adjacent to an existing train station. By combining the agricultural and urban networks, new opportunities for innovation, development and conservation are created. These opportunities will directly address the current dependencies on foreign imports for food and the increased need for food production resulting from regional population growth. The proposed interventions will empower Zhongshan to thrive in a resilient future.
There is a high diversity of land uses in the northern part of Zhongshan. However, there is a lack of connectivity and coherence between them, leading to inefficiencies in the urban fabric. However, this provides significant opportunities for development, especially surrounding the Zhongshan North Railway station. Two development focus areas work together to form the new network of research and innovation, with transportation being provided by rail, road and water.
The typologies for Zhongshan focus on the ability to integrate natural, agricultural and urban lands together into small spaces. To be able to create a successful innovation cluster, all types of uses must be able to coexist harmoniously.
The urban area is transformed into a high density cluster. A pond area for testing is located directly adjacent to the cluster, providing quick access for researchers. The trade and demonstration zone complements the innovation cluster by helping farmers to get their products to a greater variety of markets, and to seek investors for emerging technologies while also acting as a new public space for the community. Likewise, the agricultural area has differing test zones for technologies and agricultural practices. Docks help to emphasize water as a practical method of transportation between the urban and agricultural clusters.
The spatial interventions are supported by new networks whose primary goal is the advancement of innovative and commercial capacities. Public and private institutions work with individuals to encourage collaboration and knowledge transfers. This creates a more resilient system that can better support all actors within it.
In the case of Zhongshan and Nansha, the mesoscale vision is focused on preserving and improving the current agricultural practices native to the area, while also creating new networks to encourage ecological awareness and landscape protection by creating new public spaces and locations both for locals and tourists. Flood risk is also taken into consideration and traditional agriculture practices are combined with new technology. Lastly, the transformation and integration of industries will be sped up so the new free trade zone could be regarded as the industry centre and connect all the industries physically and digitally to boost the development of its high-end manufacturing industries.
Intangible Relations: Likewise, the updated structure creates a balanced network. Knowledge and innovation is shared across the bay, and a greater economic diversity is achieved. The integration of the economic network opens new opportunities for people of all backgrounds, facilitating an equitable socio-economic system to be achieved.
The Crosscapes vision for the Greater Bay Area puts the region at the forefront of environmental, social and economic innovation. This positions the GBA as the national champion for the ongoing paradigm shift from “Made in China” to “Created in China”. By prioritizing social equity alongside innovative capacity, all existing residents, and new migrants alike, will be able to prosper from this shift. By prioritizing equity, the region will be both resilient and successful long into the future.