Hybrid Networks



Following the reformation and reopening policies of the Chinese government, the economic growth in the Greater Bay Area had been fueled, which was accompanied by an almost unprecedented speed of urbanisation. Urban transport connectivity between the different cities within the region rapidly improved, making the mobility of both people and goods significantly more efficient - accelerating the intra-regional economic cooperation.

However, on the other hand this trend has also heightened the vulnerability of people and areas that were already lagging behind. With talented people and resources being attracted to the most developed cities, "metropolitan diseases" such as soaring property prices and gentrification put a massive pressure on the lower classes and new immigrants. At the same time, the unbalanced development within the region has intensified the vicious competition between the different cities. The repetitive construction of civil infrastructure, exclusive economic enclaves, blind urban expansion towards nature and more have all contributed to a massive amount of wasted resources, environmental degradation and the loss of cultural identity in the less developed areas.

To overcome these drawbacks, cities within the GBA should enhance their trans-scalar and cross-sectoral cooperation and formulate their own direction driven by the specific goals, aimed to translate the existing regional potentialities into equal benefits on the local scale. By intertwining economic prosperity, cultural identity, spatial quality, and a better microclimate, our vision of "Hybrid Networks" was formed.

Cities will find their own economic niche and upgrade their industrial zones in a sustainable way. Historic villages will be able to preserve their original living environment, while the local residents still get an equal opportunity of self-fulfillment. Social housing will be intersected with commercial housing, and people will no longer be socially isolated by income. Furthermore, with flood risk under control and ecological qualities restored, the future Greater Bay Area will be one of the most prominent regions of China that not only has a strong economical position, but also high livability and social fairness.


The Team

Xulingyun Ji did her Bachelor's degree in Landscape Architecture in China. She is obsessed with environmental design and concerns regarding the livability of contemporary cities and climate change. She is also interested in the different work flows and research strategies of urban design. By taking part in this project, she aims to gain a deeper understanding of the Great Bay Area by analyzing and designing through the different scales.

Mark Geers is a Dutch student who obtained his Bachelor's degree in Architecture at the TU Delft. His main interests lie in exploring all the different flows of people, goods, etc. that go through an area in order to be able to make a meaningful impact in people's lives. By taking part in this project, he aims to broaden his horizon and gain a better understanding of the way that different parts of the world function on a daily basis.

Iris van der Rest did her Bachelor‘s degree in the Urban Design field and enjoys everything that has to do with cities. She is interested in international projects where you learn about another country and culture. Analyzing and delving into a new place and all its layers is one of the most fun ways to learn more about the world.

Jiaqi Wang is a Chinese student who obtained her Bachelor's degree in Architecture and who currently studies at the TU Delft to further explore Urbanism from the Dutch perspective. The topics of city regeneration, metropolitan metabolism, and spatial justice interest her a lot. In this project, she wishes to deepen her understanding of megaregions across the world by teaming up with international teammates.

Rosalie Moesker obtained her Bachelor's degree in Interior Architecture at the ArtEZ University of the Arts in Zwolle. Her main interest within this project is to learn more about the international methods of Urbanism. Besides her Master in Urbanism, she's also part of the Board of the POLIS Study Association for Urbanism and Landscape Architecture.

Xiaoling Ding obtained her Bachelor's degree in Urban and Rural Planning in China. She enjoys the process of disassembling complex problems in urban design. Her main fields of interest are related to regional planning and industrial economy. Fascinated by the idea that design and research complement each other, in 2020 she moved to the Netherlands to pursue a Master in Urbanism.


The Quest

Globalization vs Cultural Identity. Data Sources: Luminocity3d Rural Urban Framework. Made by authors.

Globalisation leads to cultural fragmentation

''The paradoxical tendencies of globalisation — cultural homogenisation and cultural fragmentation — will constitute a significant challenge to the leadership in defining and guarding what it understands 'Chinese' culture to be.''

(Knight, 2006)

Urban Expansion vs Waterfront Resilience. Data Source: China National Marine Basic Information Network Service System. Made by authors.

Increased flood risk due to rapid urbanisation

''Current flood risk [in the Greater Bay Area] is increasing due to climate change and anthropogenic influences, such as rapid urbanisations and developments, especially on the low-lying floodplains. Major cities in the GBA, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, etc., will be further exposed to several kinds of flood risks (coastal, pluvial and fluvial) in the future.''

(Chan et al., 2021)

Ecology vs Industrial Development. Made by authors.

The local economy collides with the ecological conditions

''Pressures for further economic growth are intensified by population size and density, by China's heavy reliance on coal, and by the loss of arable land to soil degradation and urbanization. In part, this reflects the key dilemma facing China's National Environmental Protection Agency: pressures for economic growth are powerful and compelling, while institutions to mitigate growth’s unwanted reflects are weak.''

(Chunmei & Zhaolan, 2010)


The Challenge

How can the potentials of globalization and regional co-development on the macro scale be translated into a just benefit on the local scale?

How can the cultural values and local identity of Chinese urban villages be protected while simultaneously stimulating (urban) development to further strengthen the position of the GBA on the global market?

How can future environmental and water-related threats be minimized without damaging the economic prospects of the different agglomerations within the GBA region?


The Game

Rules of the game

In order to effectively play the morphological game, a number of guiding principles first had to be formulated. In total, five different players have been realized - each having its own set of goals and values.

By placing their crosses in strategically beneficial areas, the players aim to improve the conditions of their interests to simulate a bottom-up way of decision making. However, the collaboration between the different players was also a requirement in order to reach an all-win result in the end.

Playing the game - The process

The game was played on a 5x5km² grid that categorizes the existing land use throughout the region. Each cross placed on this base map represents an area of protection or development - dependent on the cross typology.

By using these cross configurations, our group was able to develop a deeper understanding of the different implications that a regional scale cross will have on the different scales. Furthermore, it helped us in defining more clear conditions and guidelines for placing these crosses, which led to a more precise and effective result.

Final results and conclusions

Through the morphological game, the collaboration between different players and the juxtaposition of crosses on the gameboard eventually lead us towards a vision, where all stakeholders could play a part in realizing the future of the whole Great Bay Area.

By taking advantage of the game results and bearing the regional potentials from regional connectivity, top-down policy, and global market in our mind, the vision map outlines the hybrid networks which engage different stakeholders and connect different sectors and territories for the future of the GBA beyond 2030.


The Vision

Beyond 2030, the regional potentials of the GBA will have been fully translated into local benefits by not only further establishing the polycentric network, but also by setting multiscalar goals that are based on the local context. This means that all strategic actions from regional potentials will be guided by specific goals to ensure that the transition also contributes to local benefit.

Currently, Hong Kong is the most prominent city economically, followed by Shenzhen and Guangzhou. However, to achieve further growth, the support of the smaller cities will also be necessary, as well as the social inclusion within them. Meanwhile, inner-city developments within the big cities should be carefully dealt with - bearing spatial and social justice and environmental problems in mind.

The decentralization of big cities will bring the potential of urban development to the surrounding suburban regions, as well as to the second-tier industrial cities next to them. However, by taking the local needs into account, livability and spatial justice will be the top development priority within these areas, along with diversifying the job opportunities. Furthermore, developments will be more green-oriented in the future, instead of the purely market-oriented ones.

With the future connections of intra-regional transportation and the global investment from free trade zones, current marginal cities or rural areas have the potential to be more integrated into the whole network. Nevertheless, these areas should still prioritise the preservation of their local history and culture.

The locations

Location of the three critical zoom-in areas. Made by authors.

Overview of the potentials, goals, and focuses of the zoom-in locations. Made by authors.

Rural area - Globalization with cultural identity

location: Zhongshan-Nansha

In the first critical zoom-in location, the way that cultural identity can be protected under the trend of globalization is investigated. In Nansha, a newly established state-level free trade zone under the direct control of the Guangzhou Municipal Government has been realised, together with a new high-tech industrial and economic zone and an upcoming high-speed railway connection that are both already under construction. However, in the southern part of the area, small villages like Minzhong Town - part of the Zhongshan Municipality - still keep a traditional agriculture-based life, with facilities and a local economy that are lagging behind.

Therefore, in the first location, our ambition is to seize the potentials from the global market and public transportation connectivity, while simultaneously preserving the cultural identity which includes the village fabric, agricultural landscape, and traditional lifestyle.
By introducing new program, the project aims to bridge the gap between the different stakeholders from both the high-tech industrial zone and the local agricultural village. New public service facilities will be realised in the small villages, as well as nearby innovation hubs to share the advanced agricultural skills and help to upgrade local industry, while also offering more public housing to support the co-living between villagers and young researchers to create more social coherence.

Meso-scale intervention

Above: Power and interests of the current stakeholders. Below:  Proposed engagement of the different stakeholders.

Principles and timeline of the different interventions.

Micro-scale intervention


City center - Urban development with waterfront resilience

Kowloon, Hongkong

In the second zoom-in location, the main focus will be on the waterfront redevelopment in Kowloon - one of the most densely urbanized districts in Hong Kong. Just like downtown areas of other global cities around the world, Kowloon is currently facing the threat of gentrification and an increasing gap between the rich and the poor (Pan et al., 2021). In this redevelopment strategy, the goal is to reopen the gated communities in the waterfront area and create more public space for people to enjoy the unique spatial qualities a waterfront can provide. Furthermore parts of the waterfront area will be rezoned to public parks in order to give some space back to nature and boost the biodiversity and local ecological systems.

However, this spatial improvement will need support from the local government, together with the engagement of the different stakeholders. Local residents will enjoy the benefits of not only living in an area with better spatial quality, but also with more dynamic public space. Furthermore surrounding neighbourhoods will also reap the benefits of these developments by connecting them with new pedestrian routes.
The new waterfront neighbourhoods will be diversified with public housing, business incubators, and other facilities to support both immigrants to settle down and local businesses to thrive. In this way, a more equal chance of employment and prosperity could be reached for both local small-sized business owners and local residents.

Meso-scale intervention

Above: Power and interests of the current stakeholders. Below: Proposed engagement of the different stakeholders.

Principles and timeline of the different interventions.

Micro-scale intervention


Suburban/Industrial Zone - Ecology with Industry

Zhangmutou, Dongguan

In the third topic, the main focus will be on balancing the local industrial development with ecological conditions - a phenomenon that many contemporary suburban areas in the Greater Bay Area are confronted with. Among them, Zhangmutou Town is chosen for further investigation, as it is one of the most representative cases to look at.

Zhangmutou is a town located in the periphery of Dongguan - between two mountainous areas with a river in the middle. As an in-between area linking Dongguan and Shenzhen, Zhangmutou has become a busy industrial zone and logistics center with an intercity railway connection. Currently, hardly any consideration has been given to connect industrial sectors with environmental aspects - something that both nature and the economy will suffer from in the long run. Hence, the main goal for this location is to integrate the industrial zone and nature reserve with each other in order to close the gap between local people and nature.

In order to reach this goal, the natural structure will be interwoven throughout the town by introducing a continuous green pedestrian path that connects the existing green spaces alongside the river and the mountainous area. The local industry will transition towards a more sustainable form of industry with the help of higher technology from research institutions and subsidies from the government. The rights of local workers and immigrants will also be protected by enhancing the livability in both their living and working space, which will lead to further long-term economic growth.

Meso-scale intervention

Above: Power and interests of the current stakeholders. Below: Proposed engagement of the different stakeholders.

Principles and timeline of the different interventions.

Micro-scale intervention


The booming megaregion with everyone on board

Using a trans-scalar approach and a bottom-up way of understanding the region, the previously mentioned microscale interventions will work together to not only achieve the goals of the specific locations themselves, but also to contribute in resolving the large-scale regional conflicts.

Beyond 2030, the advantages related to the global market, transportation connectivity, and regional cooperation will have become avid supporters of equal economic prosperity, defenders of social justice, and advocators for the preservation of local culture. On top of that, the regional ecological system will have been enhanced, together with an improved microclimate for the local people. For instance, through the preservation of ancient villages and their traditional agricultural lifestyles - whilst simultaneously providing knowledge and the latest innovations to local farmers and workers - the rural areas can benefit from the transition without losing their own cultural identity. In big cities, the problems related to gentrified urbanisation and flood-prone areas could be addressed by promoting biodiversity and resilient waterfront development, together with the introduction of inclusive and dynamic neighbourhoods. In suburban areas and industrial zones, a synergy between ecology and industry will be realised through the transition into a more sustainable local economy and by promoting a low-carbon lifestyle.

These interventions, together with the engagement of the different stakeholders, symbolise the changes throughout the entire region that will contribute to accomplishing a new regional hybrid network.

Further research

In light of the future trends of the Greater Bay Area, even if we tried to make connections between the different scales using these interventions, there will still be some gaps in the scheme that are worth exploring. On top of that, due to time constraints and the focus of this project, some analyses did not cover the entire region. For example, the types of historical villages have not fully been studied, resulting in a lack of universal cultural protection measures. Furthermore the role and feasibility of the proposed public housing will also need more consideration on a higher scale. In addition, some of the measures seen in the vision were not accurately applied to the microscale design, mainly due to the diversity of the region. Therefore more detailed research will be beneficial in order to create more precise design principles.